The World Beyond Your Head: Part 1, Reclaiming the Real

I want to share some posts gathering notes, quotes, and random thoughts about Matthew B. Crawford's book The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Crawford was also the best-selling author of Shop Class as Soulcraft.

These posts aren't going to be a review or a summary of The World Beyond Your Head. Rather, I'm collecting bits of Crawford's project and making connections with my book Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age.

The reason for making some connections between the two books is how Crawford's project bolsters and helps make the central case in Hunting Magic Eels. Specifically, Crawford makes the argument that the modern self has to be pulled out of itself and away from the virtual world to, in the words of Crawford, "reclaim the real." What we need in an age of distraction is patient and focused attention on the world around us, a reconnection with the world.

If you know Crawford's work, his focus on "reclaiming the real" is mainly focused on immersive craft and mechanical work, skilled manual labor. For example, he spends the entire last part of The World Beyond Your Head doing a deep dive into the world of the building and repair of pipe organs. Crawford does though, in the book, also spend a chapter on social relationships, our attention turned to each other, fellow and very real human beings. I'd like to follow that lead, to widen the view even further, to go beyond working with your hands to talk about God.

Because the heart of Hunting Magic Eels is very much what Crawford is describing. The focus on Hunting Magic Eels is attention, specifically attention turned outward. Reclaiming the real, yes, but also reclaiming (or re-encountering) the Real

The word I've used to describe this "attention turned outward" is eccentric, borrowed from the theologian David Kelsey. A spiritual, healthy, happy, and balanced life is an eccentric life, a life that has turned outward, away from itself and from the screens to "reclaim the real."

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