While luck is very prominent here, as there is so much of which we are unaware, this topic seems to be also about forgiveness of oneself and partner. Our society seems to ask that we study and be experts before we jump. “Think before you speak” has been taken too far and speaking/jumping has become a source of disappointment and blame. It is not a space from which one can easily recover, as forgiveness seems harder to come by than in the past. There was a time when we did not call in the experts to do the jumping for us. I wonder, what would be the impact on our nation’s obesity epidemic if all individuals suddenly understood that they did not need the expert knowledge of dietitians and trainers. Lower expectations, relieving ourselves and thus not need to become professional athletes or professional anything elses. Suddenly, you can sing and dance, jump, and, gulp, Leave a Reply.
Ya know, I was just thinking I didn’t really have nothing worthwhile to say today and besides which I’ve got paying work aplenty wanting my attention, never mind the list of farm-related tasks Penny reeled off at breakfast whilst outside the temperature slowly dragged its sorry ass out of the double-digit below zero range. Ah, nine below! Finally, a warm spell!
I think Peter makes a great point about forgiveness of one’s self and one’s failures, and it’s not something I mentioned much in yesterday’s post. But jeezum and by gum and whatnot, this place is full of failure. It’s a teeming mess of mistakes and missteps and false starts for which Penny and I have had to forgive ourselves over and over again, lest the weight of it all crush us into submission.
I exaggerate a bit, of course, but it’s not entirely untrue. I’m reminded of it every winter, when I try – just as I did the winter before (and the winter before that) – to fully close the window I installed so drastically out-of-square. And just as I did the winter before (and the winter before that), I fail, and resolve yet again to pull the trim, cut the nails that hold the window in place, and re-shim the damn thing.
Or up by the barn, the stupid platform we built that was going to be the floor of the new milking room that never got built because right about the time we finished the floor, we realized – for reasons that are far too complex to explain here – that it was a ridiculous arrangement. And so now we’ve got this platform rotting away and one of these days I’ve gotta tear it out. I just can’t quite bring myself to do it yet; truthfully, I need to get a little more distance from the absurdity of the situation.
This whole place is full of these sort of quirks and missteps, many the result of jumping without thinking, of blithely assuming we would prevail over (or at the very least muddle through) whatever situation we faced. Maybe it’s confidence; perhaps, at times, it trips that thin line and becomes arrogance. I do wonder if maybe I should worry about failing a bit more often than I do, that perhaps I’d actually be better off spending more time thinking about jumping, than actually jumping. I’ve always been this way, and while Penny is something of a tempering influence, she’s not exactly immune to excitement and “git r’ dun-ism.”
The flip side of all this is precisely what Peter points out: That our culture has, in general, become overly dependent on so-called “experts.” Broadly speaking, we have become deskilled and unconfident to the point of near-helplessness. Because if you strip away all the 21st century socioeconomic artifice and get right down to the brass tacks of food and shelter and water and warmth, the overwhelming majority of Americans would be well and truly forked. Hell, I bet most of us can’t hardly change a flat tire, anymore.
The reasons for this helplessness are multitude, and are built into practically every demographic trend of the past century. You can’t coax folks away from the land with promises of moneyed prosperity and expect them to retain the land-based skills that are no longer economically viable. You can’t structure an economy to reward specialization and industrial production and expect people to maintain their connection to the fundamentals of their well-being. The further away from these fundamentals we get, the less confidence we have in our abilities to attain them. And I wonder if it’s not just confidence in these particular skills, but a generalized confidence that depends on us feeling as if we are, in some fundamental way, useful.
Of course as we lose confidence, we gain fear. Fear of stepping outside the prescribed boundaries. Fear of turning against the crushing tide of the very trends that are making us fearful. Fear of jumping.
There are plenty of times when I feel as if I lack confidence, when I feel as if what I do is, in one way or another, inadequate. When a real carpenter comes into our house, someone with the skills to truly craft a home, rather than just build one, I can’t quite get over the sense that he or she is quietly noting the many flaws of our humble shelter. Hah! Look at that out-of-square window. Man, Hewitt sure is a boob of a builder. Oh, my: They used spikes to pin those beams together! Philistines! I could go on. And on. But the truth is, it’s just not that helpful. It does nothing to further our pursuit of living our lives as we wish to live them. I forgave myself that out-of-square window years ago. So did Penny. And those spikes, they work just fine. Better yet, we drove ‘em ourselves. I remember it well. It made our shoulders wicked sore, but it was real fun.
Soon enough, I’ll forgive myself that stupid milking room floor and rip it down. We’ll pile up all the tore-up wood, have some friends over, and spark up one hell of a fire. We’ll laugh at our stupid mistake and our friends will laugh with (at?) us and maybe we’ll cook up some sausages or something. We might even break out some instruments and play some music. I’m still working on gaining the confidence to sing in front of others, but I’m getting there, and maybe by then I’ll be ready to belt out a tune or two.
You know, I think that might be the best thing to do with failure: Turn it into a party.