Monday, January 07, 2008

I Looked Down, And There It Was (Again)

[Editor's note: This was originally offered a year ago. I'm pleased that these things make a certain amount of sense even though they are not new. Authors who are famously wrong need new material all the time, I guess.]
{Author's note: Being lazy, I tell the truth. Saves effort. Also, there is no editor.}

It's a hoary old joke my friend tells. The man of few words, in a restaurant slightly more elegant than he's used to. The waiter asks: "How did you find your meal?" He answers: "I looked down, and there it was."

Everything appears now, through a process so complex that no one can fully understand even a small portion of it. Persons that say they understand the machinations necessary to place the most mundane thing in front of a great many people well enough to regulate the whole affair, with an eye towards improving everything, are spouting nonsense. If a man walked up to you and confessed he didn't know your name, but claimed he could list all the atoms in your body, would you hand him your wallet? How about your skin? All day long, I hear the groundskeepers telling me they should be the quarterback. And I can't help noticing the grass has gone to seed, and the hash marks are crooked.

You look down, and there it is, all day long. There is a large chance that if you're reading this, you have never participated in the actual making of anything in any meaningful way. And as the world gets more complex, we all get further and further removed from the ultimate source of all of our prosperity. How far removed? To the point where it gets obscure enough that it can be blithely strangled in its crib, on the supposition that it can be improved by infantile wishing, followed by fiat.

See the man on the sleigh, bringing the sap back to the shed to boil? He knows the tree like a brother. He knows the woods like a mother. He knows fire like a caveman. He knows commerce like a loanshark. He knows cold like a gravedigger. He knows sap like you know the alphabet. And he doesn't have the slightest idea what you're about, because you labor in a vineyard far removed from his -- where the meaning of your efforts is likely always obscure, as all intellectual pursuits must be.

Remember always what you don't know about him, lest one day, you look down, and there it ain't.


Janet said...

At least sugar shacks haven't changed that much. They run plastic piping from tree to tree instead of hanging individual buckets on each tap, so the horses aren't needed anymore, but that's the main change.

Now you're making me nostalgic for Quebec, where no early spring is complete without the traditional sugaring off party. At least not in the part of the province we lived in, which admittedly was the heart of world maple sugar production.

Anonymous said...

The last time we had lamb for dinner, my wife and I had a hard time trying to decide who to thank for this meal. We ended up saying a brief "thank you" to the man who machined the small brass stem of the thermostatic expansion valve used in the refrigeration system of the truck that hauled the meat from the slaughterhouse to the packing facility, keeping it cool and sanitary on the way.

Modern civilization is so interlinked that I am fearful of what could happen at any time to completely disrupt it. The "back to nature" idiots have no idea what it takes to create something as seemingly simple as an axe head.