It’s the turning of the yearly cycle. I (like many folks) use this time for post-game mental debriefings. If I don’t learn what lessons the prior year granted me I might get the same lesson again; good and hard. Is that not sufficient motivation?
You’re thinking I’m going to offer some Zen based koan? Deep thoughtful wisdom? Of course not. Are you new here? Rather I’ve reluctantly admitted that a limited subset of material goods (things I like to keep at arms length) significantly helped keep 2013 from going critical and melting me into the ground. I offer them to you. Either you’ll gain from my questionable wisdom or think I’m a chump with too much money and too little sense. Remember these are observations of an overworked, harried, homesteader (with a day job too), who lives in the middle of nowhere… your mileage may vary.
- My modified electric heated chicken watering bucket is worth it’s weight in gold. Is this device a revelation that improves my spiritual development and allows me to more fully experience life? Yes!
- Installing a second hand air conditioner in my office was a truckload of win. A machine that makes me more productive and less bitchy all summer long. How is that not magic? I should have installed one, regardless of budget, the day I built the office.
- A riding lawn mower with the unique feature called “starts every time” was a wise investment. I prefer my antique tractor in ways that I’ve articulated in thousands of words. Alas, we can’t always enjoy the journey. When you’re in a rush, Chinese made crap from a box store is a handy shortcut.
- The judicious use of Roundup is an epic force multiplier! Brush saws, grazing, fire, and mowers are better, simpler, more manly, and spiritually superior. However, when your time is booked enough for two people, do the math, spray carefully, and enjoy the fruits of chemistry’s dark arts.
- This isn’t a new concept but it bears notice. Mrs. Curmudgeon has nicknamed my truck “the big red security blanket”. Indeed it functions as such. I love all my vehicles as one loves all their children but 2013 was a year when cash dropped on a good truck yielded dividends by reducing the “shit I’ve got to deal with” list.
- Cheap electric boot warmer are priceless. I haven’t seen the positive side of the Fahrenheit scale in weeks. Warm boots on a cold morning keep nihilism at bay.
Time to mention some things that money can’t buy:
- I had wood stacked a year ahead. 2013 mugged me and left me bleeding in an alley. In the summer I just couldn’t find the time to cut enough for winter. My righteous “bank” from 2012 was waiting for me with several tons of sympathy and patience. It’s keeping me warm right now.
- I’m getting better at ignoring a shaggy lawn. A valuable survival skill. I generally desire a nicely mowed lawn but rarely attain it; I struggle to let go. (Once again Mrs. Curmudgeon leads the way. I don’t think she even knows we have a lawn. I could strip mine it and so long as the driveway is clear she’d be happy.)
- I’m getting better at ignoring sagging fences too. The “lose a few chickens but shave many hours off my work schedule” balance has not benefited the birds.
Now for some materialistic mistakes:
- Working too damn hard. I expected a recession delivered upside the head like a baseball bat. Why the economy isn’t a crater still eludes me. At any rate I’ve always worked hard but the last several years I’ve been really giving it my all. Has it paid off? Well yes and no. I’m not broke or living in a cardboard box but I’m not sure all that tremendous dedication and earnest effort moved the needle either for the better or worse. In the benefit of hindsight I know that 2013 beat me like a rented mule. I need to rein that in before I’m a skeleton.
- Overcoming impossible odds, sometimes you can’t do it. I had an unspecified job that was too huge. There was no way in hell I was going to get it done on my own and no way I could hire it done. I invested in equipment to increase my productivity. I turned one man on weekends into a human machine. I did more than one might expect. Alas, I’m just one man and you can’t move the world. The job didn’t get done. I don’t regret the expense and maybe I’ll finish the job in 2014. In hindsight I’d probably have been better off ignoring it and letting entropy have it’s way. Who am I to stand alone against the odds?
- My motorcycle; I scarcely rode it. Every year, the combined forces of all humanity have a secret meeting where they arrange things such that every time I want to ride my motorcycle there’s an “issue”. Every single stinking day of summer there’s a new obligation or twist or “just this time can you carry X” or “give a ride to Z”. I own a bike. All I need is a tank of gas… and time. I bleed at the time lost from riding. Summer 2013 is gone and won’t come back. I blew it. I swear I’m going to have to fake my own death and sneak away in the middle of the night just to get a few peaceful summer miles but if that’s what it takes I ought to do it.
Well there you have it. Notice that (aside from the truck and the mower) I didn’t get most of my biggest “wins” from big ticket items? Spiffy electric buckets, stacked wood, and a jug of Roundup mattered as much as anything. I wonder what other materialistic shortcuts I’m missing? Frankly 2013, while being a fine year, wore me out and who knows if ten cumulative hours with a frozen chicken waterer would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back? I hope 2014 takes it easier on me but at least I’m learning.
It has been my observation that people who denounce materialism fall into two categories;
1) Saints, Martyrs, and Fanatics; people who, by choice, live an aesthetic lifestyle that looks horribly uncomfortable and which I have no desire to emulate. While I am generally Christian by upbringing, this is where Buddhism exerts a strong attraction – the renunciation of extremes in favor of The Middle Way. Of course when you get right down to it, I am probably as off base about Buddhism as Japanese Anime usually is about Catholicism.
2) Pillocks, Prats, and Hypocrites; people who live a lifestyle that makes them perfectly comfortable and content and either preach greater privation for other people or that everybody should live exactly as they do (because they are too stupid to imagine wanting something else).
It seems to me that the vast majority of progress in Human history has been material. Read Juvenal; two thousand years ago he’s complaining that the government is ineffectual and corrupt, the leaders of society are immoral, the gangs have taken over the streets, and the garbage hasn’t been collected. In the intervening time we have developed modern dentistry, antibiotics, and printing and the primary dietary problem of our poor is that they are too fat. People have stayed the same, but material comforts have improved. I am inclining to the belief that all social progress can be measured buy the extent to which the common man gets away with telling his so-called betters to go climb a tree. And what has done that is the incredible increase in wealth.
With regard to the category “Pillocks, Prats, and Hypocrites”, I suggest that many of these are utterly clueless as to how their comfortable lifestyle comes about.
This cluelessness extends to a complete disrespect for the people who do the menial jobs that support the Enlightened Lifestyle.
And, of course, they tend to exhibit a full-on “can’t they eat cake?” attitude toward those who live on the margins: no one should have a “substandard” lifestyle, therefore we should outlaw or bulldoze the things that make out-of-mainstream lifestyles possible. Because if we get rid of the shantytowns, the poor will have no choice but to live in fine apartments as they should. Right?
Don’t forget that they’d like to outlaw “junk food” so they’re all forced to eat expensive organic foods too.
For me 2013 held a few downers besides the usual mundane stuff: sudden death, eviction, income loss, months of post-surgery recovery. On the plus side: I found out who my friends are, I park inside an almost-heated garage now, I made chili someone actually liked. So, if nothing else, the year was educational. Kinda OT but thanks for listening. I’ll go back to work now.
A few material goods I’ve discovered this year:
-Good, singe malt scotch- a drink to be savored in small quantities, and appreciate what only time and patience can accomplish.
-My classic Landcruiser- a well designed, spartan bit of transportation berift of complications. There’s a few minor things that always need fixing, but that’s just part of the fun.