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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Monday, December 10, 2007

Self-Sufficiency as Paradosis

So, the other day I did something I have not done in a very long time. I repaired an automobile. Nothing serious, and nothing complex: I changed a couple of worn belts and replaced a headlight. However, a number of years ago I swore off of auto repairs of any sort: including oil changes.

The reason was simple: most anytime I turned a wrench on a car, I opened Pandora's box and Murphy with his cursed law was visited upon me over and over and over again in biblical plague-like portions. Sometimes it would be a minor thing: a rusted bolt that would, with a little effort on my part be stripped and forever unable to move. And sometimes it would be major like the time I finally gave up and threw the Audi transmission in the back of the car and called a tow truck. Either way, I eventually found myself nearly at THIS level of frustration.

I kept trying though, with manual in one bloodied stump of a hand and wrench in the scabbed over other one. Once I started getting "new" cars, I realized quickly that they were far too complex to have me beating around on them with a hammer and so I surrendered. If I could not effectively work on a car through whose engine compartment I could see the ground and in which I could actually stand, I had serious doubt about my ability to do much of anything on a car that virtually requires an engine removal to change the belt.

Of course now I have traded in my new cars for old ones and the Suburban engine compartment looks more inviting. I have managed to get the heater/defroster working and change the belts without a major incident and with relative ease. It's a real confidence builder, but I'm not wholly ready to tackle the tranny or even the replacement of my breaks for that matter...we'll see. The demon-ghost of Murphy has not fully been exorcised I fear.

But it occurred to me as I was driving my now squeakless truck to the park and ride, that I really was not privvy to much practical paradosis. Part of that was of course due to my parent's divorce...as a matter of fact...post-divorce I have no recollection of what we did about home repairs, though surely their need must have been present....how oblivious we kids can be. But, it is also a society-wide problem as well.

In our affluence and extreme specialization we've taught our kids that the way to handle just about any problem is to pick up the phone and pay someone to handle it for us. This, I suppose, is great if you have the money, but I worry that we are training up a generation of people who are utterly devoid of ANY practical self-sufficient skills. It's funny, if you think about it, the white collar software engineer held ransom by his ignorance to the whims of the blue collar plumber. HA!

Some would say, it just makes more economical sense to pay someone to replace your belts than to do it yourself. I suppose sometimes this is true, but such calculations are usually based on some factors that are simply untrue for me: 1) That I would be making 45.00 a hour (or whatever you figure your time is worth) doing whatever it is I would be doing instead of working on my car. 2) That I have the money to spend on the repair labor to begin with.

Well, 1) I get paid nothing for drinking beer and playing Medieval II and 2) I paid 6.00 for the belts while the garage would have charged me 75.00 to replace them for me. And I ain't got 75.00 to spare on something I can fix myself. PLUS, by gum, I feel pretty darn good doing stuff for myself.

We also have set up a paradosis barrier between generations. Part of this is because technology (among other things) has convinced us (DECEIVED US) into believing that we've nothing much to learn from the past (i.e. our parents and grandparents). And yet, I know with certainty that my own father has many practical skills and knowledge that have not been passed on to me - things I really could use now. However, I don't blame him, it's just the way of things today....in a sense we are all to blame for it. One of many casualties from divorce.

And so, while I was working on the truck Joe and Nicholas climbed up and watched and as I worked I basically told them everything I knew about car engines...at least to the degree that they understood it. They really were curious about it all and I was generally able to tolerate their "help" (such as their holding the flashlight for me and pointing it directly into my retina about every 30 seconds). I've made no secret of my struggles as a Dad...particularly with issues of patience....and I know it would often be easier to tell them go away and leave me to get the work done, but more and more I am being convinced that we need to bring that beautiful concept of Paradosis back into everyday life. Lord help ME to do it!

As the lack of paradosis has screwed up Christianity, it is going to do the same for our homes. Pass your knowledge on to your kids...even if they sit and watch you reading it out of a greasy manual. We stand to save our kids a multitude of mistakes, blunders, and need for lengthy periods of hard struggling in the search for experience. And yes, this lesson is for those experimenting with Christianity as well; those engaged in the maddening quest for original faith: why not seek those who still maintain the practice of paradosis and always have. I know that having an experienced mechanic by your side is incomparable to your own grand wisdom and a manual ("Bible").

Oh that there was the equivalent of a handyman Orthodox Church under whose tutelage I could place myself. Sigh...I press on with instruction guide in hand...hoping I'll have the patience to let my kids learn from my bruises, bloodied knuckles, and...yes...occasional swear words.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:55 AM [+]


Dear James,

As one handyman to another, I must tell you that I feel your pain, but I wouldn't have it any other way. There is a wonderful sense of reward I get when I fix something, or build a wall, or lay tile, and lo and behold it actually looks good, and, gosh, even though it took some time, I saved a little money. I used to do everything simply because we couldn't afford it any other way. Now that I can afford it, I judiciously seek assistance from outsiders -- usually when it will entail an incredible amount of time or will seriously wreck me physically for a few weeks. Jackhammering our solid concrete porch comes to mind...I ended up hiring some guys to do it for me...took 4 of them 8 hrs...they used a bobcat, two jack hammers, etc...I was nuts to even consider doing it.

Best regards,

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:13 PM  


Oh Mike...let me give you just a taste of my handyman list:

Finish drywall and insulation of cabin, replace floor and toilet in bathroom, finish siding of cabin, build new extension on chicken coop, paint barn and coup, install vent fans in both bathrooms, finish fencing around garden/new chicken run, start felling trees for making new pasture area for future critters, change and repair front tire on old farm pickup, repair small leak in roof over woodstove, install new driveway gate for ourselves and neighbor to keep partying teens from parking therein, finish french drain in "St. Brigid Creek", and that's just what I can think of for the moment...if you are ever bored and find yourself in my neck of the woods the beer is on me.


By Blogger fdj, at 10:33 PM  


Oh, gosh...and I thought my list was challenging...actually, we'll be in Hansville after Christmas, though not long enough for me to offer my, er, meager talents...before we come over next summer, I'll drop you a line...I've done my share of toilets/sheetrock/gates etc.. :) Beer is always good.

Best regards,

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:08 PM  


Mike, we'd love to have you visit...seriously though, we'll skip the work and go straight to beer.

By Blogger fdj, at 7:55 AM  


Sounds like a plan, James! You can also always e-mail me directly at michaecwenberg@hotmail.com or at my work at michael@wwsymphony.org.

Best regards,

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 PM  


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