The Cult of DifficultyPosted: November 26, 2013
I was in a quilt shop the other day, and the conversation turned to the various projects we’re working on. I was getting a bit more of the border fabric I’d run out of for one of the baby quilts, and I mentioned the star quilt I was working on, with the Mariner’s Compass block at the center. The woman behind the counter let out an ooooh. “That’s a hard one.” I shrugged. “I’m paper piecing it, so it’s a lot easier.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, that’s cheating.”
I hear this attitude a lot, this idea that the value of an action is in its difficulty rather than its outcome. Your quilt isn’t as nice if you attach the bindings by machine rather than by hand. You’re not healthy enough, domestic enough, good enough, if you don’t make every single ingredient in your food from scratch. You’re too dependent on technology if you store your grocery list in your phone. There’s this worship of labor-intensity in our society. This whole concept is based on the false idea that everyone has the same time, money, skills, and resources, and that’s just blatantly false.
In competitions, I can see how it would be valuable. A competitor performing a more difficult task successfully shows that they have a higher level of skill. But here’s the thing: life isn’t a competition. So instead of being so hard on each other for choosing to do things the practical way, to “use your head and save your heels,” as my great-grandmother would say, let’s celebrate each other’s successes.