I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Sunday, December 30, 2007


For the last several days I have been in the process of preparing my new house (I use the term "new" rather loosely) for the move.

I purchased a small, old house in a very ideal location, and there is much work to be done. I have never done construction, but I have some good friends who have expertise in fix-it-up work.

The two main rooms that we are working on are the living room and a side bedroom. In the side bedroom all things have been ripped down; at one point we could see up through to the roof! There was paneling and a cheap, lowered ceiling that were all ripped out of both rooms.

Lots of demolition. But, as the Good Book says, "There is a time to build up, and a time to tear down." Our time to build up has arrived. Today we work on drywall and patching work.

I never realized that construction was so much fun! (Matt, why didn't you tell me??!!) It's hard work, but very rewarding to see some of the old crap get broken down and taken out. We are transforming a house that had seen a bit of decay and lots of neglect over the years into something new and beautiful again.

Also of interest to me is the people who are helping me. Without their insights and spare hands, I wouldn't even begin. I have obviously very grateful; however, more than just thankfulness is the sense that my house is not just my house. That is, if there are people give their time and knowledge to make this project happen, then it isn't just my project and it isn't just my house.

I think of the old days (and the Amish of the present day) when members of a rural community would all converge on a property for a barn raising. The barn raising involves the whole community who, within a mere day, can construct an entire barn--no small task! But if it is your fellow friends and family whose time and labor have constructed the barn, then there is a sense in which it is both your barn and also a barn that belongs to your friends a family. So, in this sense there is individual rights and individual ownership, but there is still a strong sense that a person is not an island to himself but a part of a greater whole upon which he is dependent and into which he will invest his energies to help the community prosper. (From a philosophical perspective this is some of how the discussion proceeds as it relates to the economy of the gift.)

This sense of dependency is what we have no need of in America. Imagine if I had decided to pursue the accounting/business profession with all of my energy. At this point in life if I were buying a house, I would not waste time purchasing a fixer upper, and any needed repair work would be done by a hired professional, perhaps someone that I knew had a good professional reputation but certainly not a friend. My money would buy work needed to be done, I would have not part in it, and once the transaction is completed I would have no need for the workers and the workers would have no need for me. This is capitalism that creates distance.

In my current situation there is a reciprocity at work: I receive the gift of others and in turn I reciprocate this to others who might need something similar in the future. If one does not need to receive a gift, then one is less likely to give. Mutual dependency creates a sense of responsibility. It also connects us in a deeper way. In current American society, we have lost this. It is part of a larger way of life in which we have lost connectedness with each other and have become fragmented and isolated.

On another miscellaneous note....I told my family and friends that I was not doing Xmas this year. I got some cheers and some jeers. One of my brothers said I was right on and that Xmas was a crock. The other brother said was going to get me a gift, anyway; on Friday I received a FedEx from him that contained a lump of coal. (Actually, it was charcoal briquets that I will use this summer for cookout on the deck that I need to build!)

Photos will follow showing the various steps of de/re/construction. I am keeping something of a photo journal of this whole process.

Well, I must get back to work.



Matt said...

Let me know your enthusiasm level when it is actually completed.

Sometimes I know it feels good, but often I run into hassle that take the fun out of it.

Dave, nice one with the coal.

Emily said...

Exciting! I'm looking forward to the pictures.