Today’s post may be a bit philosophical which is something I tend to avoid. Further, I’ve had a crazy morning and I haven’t finished my coffee yet so it may devolve into a mess. Stay with me as I try to say something worth reading. If it doesn’t make sense just chalk it up to smoke inhalation (I’ll explain later).
To begin; I’m too lazy to look up the source but a quote I like goes like this:
“In theory there’s not much difference between theory and practice. In practice the difference is huge.”
It’s not a deep koan that’ll solve all your problems but it is indeed true. Park that on a synapse somewhere and add my next idea.
“In many things there is a spectrum of options. You’re on that spectrum whether you like it or not. Where you want to be and where you are don’t necessarily match.”
I can’t define it precisely in a short post but (among other things) I tend to obsess about the spectrum of options defining how integrated my world is with society at large. At one end is the city dweller who’s so utterly enmeshed in society that they never control anything because the bus brings them to work, their boss tells them which cubicle they should sit in, and food is delivered by the guy who works for the pizza joint. At the other end is the much rarer person who tries to stay “off grid” from much of the world. It’s mostly a smattering of hippies, back to the landers, Amish types, bunker dwelling survivalists, and the occasional hermit. They need to fix the truck when it breaks or walk. They must feed their family when the corn crop sucks and slop the hogs at dawn. They wouldn’t have a pizza delivered if their life depended on it. I suppose I could express it more poetically but I’m not going to. Suck it up because I don’t do poetics until after the second pot of coffee.
I’m not writing today to suggest where you should be on that spectrum. That’s an individual decision and fodder for plenty of ranting later. What I want to say is that where you want to be on that spectrum is probably not where you are.
For example; if your car conks out and interrupts your commute you could look at it as a deviation between where you belong on the spectrum and where you are. You could be pissed off with the hassle of owning and maintaining a car and wish you could just take a bus. You could be pissed off with the mechanic reaming you whenever you need to maintain your car and wish you could fix it yourself. Different directions but reasonable solutions.
If each person is somewhere on the spectrum and wants to be somewhere else what’s the solution to making the two match? Get off your ass and do it. Several years ago I was living in “the city built entirely on debt”. Lots of people liked that city but it was pissing me off. Now I’m living on my farm/homestead/dump and much happier. It’s not without drawbacks. There are days when it’s an uphill climb. Why? Because the theory of shifting on the spectrum smacks hard into the practice of actually doing it.
Which brings me to why I’m sitting in my smoke filled living room sipping coffee after a frenetic morning that could have been relaxing. Cold breezes blow through a scandalously open window (open windows in winter are verboten) and a fan assaults me with the noise of trying to shove smoke out the window. On the other hand, a cheery fire radiantly heats my vicinity and the coffee is good. Everything is mixed up and that’s just how it goes sometimes.
It was a crazy morning because I heat (mostly) with wood. Most people heat with electricity or various fossil fuels. Turn a dial on the wall and a magic metal box in the basement blows warm air. That’s what I used to do too. It’s effortless but I didn’t like where it put me on my imaginary spectrum.
Every month I’d get my heating bill and feel like I’d been raped by Halliburton. I viscerally loathe watching my hard earned salary get wrapped into a check and sent to someone’s evil corporate headquarters.
Now I burn wood. Wood I cut myself with my own saw from trees I own that grow on my land. Cool! I have a top flight woodstove. Most of the time it’s very efficient and makes the house feel charming and warm. This morning I screwed up. I was low on kindling but tried to start the fire anyway. Instead of generating the efficient draft I expect I got a reverse flow and smoke poured into the house. Yuck! I got my lesson (which I suppose I needed); “get off your ass and chop up enough kindling to do it right”.
When I talk about choices (like the woodstove) folks imagine a cheery fire that’s high efficiency, eco-green, carbon neutral, pretty and comfy, etc… That’s the theory.
They don’t imagine the day I skimp on kindling and make a mess. That’s practice.
And that’s why most people stay where they are on my imaginary spectrum. Because the theory is easy but practice is hard. On the other hand, I’ve fixed the error and the the fire is burning in it’s usual high efficiency manner. The house is warm, the smoke has cleared, and there will be no monthly heat bill.
Every month without a bill is priceless. That’s the payoff for moving on the spectrum from where you are to where you want to be. It’s not without hassles but it’s better than spinning your wheels.