Light up the darkness

10/30/2008 at 2:31 pm (home)

Noel and I got a crazy notion to go to Wal-Mart last night right about sunset.

So we clipped on the lights and headed out.

It was a great ride.

One of the things I wanted to get at Wal-Mart was a new oil lamp.

The previous lamp we have we purchased at a garage sale and it works okay. But the chimney doesn’t sit on the burner correctly. And I’ve often wondered if the lamp didn’t burn as brightly as it could because of it.

They had only one lamp on the shelf at the store and it was $6 so I went ahead and bought it. It’s a nice looking thing with a glass base. It appears to be a bit smaller overall than our other one. But it is significantly brighter.

The older lamp put out enough light to read by as long as the book was directly beside the lamp. This new lamp however gives enough light to read while it is sitting on an end table between our two chairs.

So I’m looking forward to giving it more of a workout in the future.


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Life is a Miracle

10/30/2008 at 2:18 pm (books)

I purchased the book “Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition,” by Wendell Berry, from Amazon recently.

I like a lot of what Wendell Berry writes, but I didn’t get into this book very easily. Berry has a large vocabulary and reading his work exercises the mind a bit. And I didn’t quite appreciate — at first — the direction that he was taking the book.

But the further I get into it, the more I like it. It is a very good book, and I’m only yet about half-way through. So I’ll have to give you a final appraisal when I finish. But for now I’ll leave you with a quote that I just read from the book:

“What I am against … is our slovenly willingness to allow machines and the idea of the machine to prescribe the terms and conditions of the lives of creatures, which we have allowed increasingly for the last two centuries, and are still allowing, at an incalculable cost to other creatures and to ourselves.” (Berry’s emphasis)

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Witty inventions

10/29/2008 at 6:09 pm (thoughts)

I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. – Proverbs 8:12

A friend quoted this verse to me last year, using it to justify his use of gas-powered machinery. I was helping him cut wood (he sawed while I split and piled it on the trailer). I hadn’t said a word about it to him, I get the feeling he was trying to convert me to his way of thinking.

Anyway I came across it again today while reading, and I’ve really been thinking hard about it.

And this is my conclusion.

The axe is a witty invention, for me.

I purchase one. I paid about $60. That’s a little more than an axe from the hardware store would cost you, but it is a high-quality axe. If I take care of it and barring theft or any other major accident, I will not buy another one in my lifetime. I also spent about $10 on a special round sharpening stone for it. I suppose after a couple decades I’ll probably have to replace the stone. And the handle may eventually break. And I can purchase a replacement for a few dollars or with a little practice I can learn to make my own.

But basically that’s it. For a small initial investment I have a tool that will enable me to heat my home with no further “inputs” … ever.

Now, the chain saw, on the other hand, is a witty invention, for the oil company and the chain saw manufacturer.

You will spend a good deal more for a quality chain saw than a quality axe. Think in the $250-500 range. Yes, you could get a $80 saw at Wal-Mart. But an $80 saw is probably equivalent to a $10 axe.

But it doesn’t end there. A chain saw needs gas, two-stroke oil, and bar oil. Each of which have to be purchased. No one that I know of is capable of making their own.

And of course a chain saw needs to be sharpened which requires a special apparatus and a good deal of time, not like the 5 minutes with a stone the axe needs. And since chain saw sharpening is such a big business I’d bet those apparatus’ don’t work all that well.

And of course after a while, no matter how well you take care of it, it will break and need to be repaired or even replaced entirely.

So the purchase of a chain saw isn’t a done deal. It is in fact a yoke, committing you to purchasing more and more and more for the life of the saw.

So the whole “witty invention” thing is all about your point of view.

If you’re the one making and selling the chainsaws and all the various things a person has to purchase in order to run one, I suppose that it is a very witty invention.

But if you’re the one just trying to cut some wood to heat your home, it doesn’t seem all that witty to me to have to go out and get a job to earn the money needed to constantly be purchasing all that junk.

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10/28/2008 at 7:58 pm (photos)

Well the weather quacks were right … it got cold last night. Middle 20s somewhere.

The bicycle ride to work this morning was brisk and invigorating. I got a little cool going down the relatively steep hill right after I left home. But otherwise I was toasty warm.

Thanks in part to this great scarf that a good friend of ours sent us last year.

Our friend sent Noel one too, so we each have a hand-made scarf. It really helps to keep the wind off your face.

And it really makes a big difference as it pre-heats the air that I’m breathing just a little bit. Makes it not quite such a shock the system that way.

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10/27/2008 at 1:58 pm (thoughts)

Also in the recent issue of Geographic, there is an article about the Tarahumara people of Mexico.

The article starts out like this:

The Tarahumara of Mexico evaded Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century. But can they survive the onslaught of modernity?

And it got me to thinking about this word “modernity.”

There have been a number of things that have been made very clear to me in the recent weeks. Revelations, etc. About this so-called modern life of ours.

I’ve been pondering the meaning of modernity and I came to the conclusion what folks today call modernity, is really just consumerism.

It’s just another part of the great lie being sold to us.

The article bears this out. The writer writes:

 … I found myself envisioning electricity in Guagüeyvo as a pileup of metallic chabochi [Tarahumara word for outsider] objects with cords sticking out — push button grinders, digital clocks, hair dryers, the new black refrigerator, TVs broadcasting telenovelas between commercials for mascara and laundry soap. I asked Fidencia [Tarahumara woman the writer was interviewing] how she would react, should someone bring all these items into her home, and she stopped looking at her daughter long enough to take me in for a moment, gravely but kindly, as though she were trying to figure out whether I could possibly be as stupid as I appeared.”

“That would be very good,” she said.

And all I can do is shake my head.

Consumerism is an addiction. Just as bad as any other, if not worse since most people do not recognize it for what it is.

And it is nothing but one big lie. You’ll be happy if you buy this. You’ll be cool if you buy this. You’ll be fulfilled and productive and hip and smart and healthy and strong … if you’ll just buy this.

And of course, it doesn’t end there. Are you still wearing “last year’s” clothes? Shame, shame! You must buy the “latest” trend!

I’m so utterly sick and tired of the whole thing. A “modern American’s” life revolves entirely around it. It is completely and utterly ridiculous and totally and absolutely insane.

But the part that upsets me the most is that everyone seems to think that it is normal! And not only that, but that folks who choose to live outside the “lifestyle” are crazy and a danger to themselves and others.

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10/27/2008 at 1:17 pm (thoughts)

We haven’t been very good lately about keeping to our “no electric lights” rule.

It’s just so hard. But we’re going to be more strict about it.

I got my issue of National Geographic in the mail today.

The cover story is “The End of Night: Why we need darkness.” It was pretty short, not like many Geographic articles. And it didn’t go into real depth. But I think that might be because there hasn’t really been a lot of study done on the subject.

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10/27/2008 at 1:06 pm (uncategorized)

Got into the 30s this morning. Pretty cool.

Then I check the weather forecast and tonight’s low is supposed to be 24!!

Now that’s cold!

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