Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grease Up Those Biscuit Pans Girls!

aka The Truths, part one

Sometimes I know stuff. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes I know it in my bones (which is how I knew I had to seek the satisfaction of a cow chewing her cud). Sometimes it is some impression or attraction (which is how I knew eventually I’d live “across” water, and anyone who has been here knows that I do). Sometimes my dreams are prescient (like when I dreamed that my mom’s closet was empty). I’ve gone so far as to develop a few fairly complete psychological theories even.

Since I’ve been so quiet this month, I thought, hmm, why not share some of those things that I do happen to know?

Here is the one I’ve been most thinking of right now: We all need to materially participate in our own lives. “Materially participate” is kind of a funny phrase since it is from the tax code* but I think it makes sense here. I think of it in many ways. First of all, it means that you clean your own toilet. To not clean your own toilet is like asking someone else to wipe your ass for you -- there are some things that you should do for yourself and that is one of them. There are many more things than that. Look around yourself and see what you are coercing other people into doing for you and seriously look at whether that is really something you think you should not do for yourself.

I expand my thoughts on material participation to growing your own food. Not that all of us or even most of us can grow most of our own food, but all of us can grow some of our own food, all of us can put up (preserve) from abundant local foods, and other stuff like that. And since we all eat, if you don’t grow food, you buy food. Where does the money for that come from? Are you materially participating in the earning of that money? Not that I think all partners need to work outside the home, not at all, for years (with small children) I did not earn significant amounts of money -- but I made what we had go a lot further by running the household economy efficiently.

But still, those things are examples of how to materially participate in your life, not litmus tests.

These ideas are not just for husbands and wives but for children and grandparents too. It is incredibly important but exceedingly rare that children are allowed (much less encouraged or empowered) to materially participate in their own lives. And old people are sometimes even more patronized.

Our work also changes as our roles in life change. When we have young boob hanging children, we must have boobs available pretty much all the time. That’s pretty much what a mom (or mom substitute) does for the first two years of a kid’s life. But that soon enough ends and another stage in life begins; with children in the family, it is a stage of more independence but also more interdependence. Our own children really work, and our family really depends on their contributions, and it is a miss of the parental mark to not allow children this material participation in their own lives.

Yes, this is one of the things I know that is true not only for me but universally: in order for a person to be happy and healthy, in order for a person to not exploit other people and the planet (to be moral), a person must find ways to materially participate in his own life.

In the economy past, doing this has actually been harder than one might imagine, but in the economy future, it might get a lot easier. Greasing up those biscuit pans only seems hard when you don't regularly do it because what passes as food is so cheap, and getting those biscuits out of the oven is really a great pleasure, so go ahead!

*Some of the ways the tax code defines material participation: you work at it yourself 500 or more hours in the year, you do substantially all the work required, do things that no one else is paid to do for you or that no one else does for more hours than you do (so if you buy a meal out, you cook the equivalent of that at home, plus some -- and think about all that prepared food at the grocery too -- a loaf of bread counts for a couple hours of someone else’s labor), and you do these things on a regular, continuing and substantial basis.

11 comments:

Joe Tornatore said...

insightful post.

J said...

To some, adults and kids, it is their 'right' to not have to do anything menial. They think they are 'too good' to cook or clean. To ask them to clean toilets is an insult to them.
There are going to be a lot of disillusioned people.

Alecto said...

I keep coming back to this and thinking I can't respond until I'm done thinking on it and that just hasn't happened yet so here I am. (so here I go, kinda, sorta chewed cud and all).

I never much minded cleaning other peoples toilets. Not sure what that's all about except I was paid an awful lot of money to do it when I needed money awful bad and I always thought I was pulling the wool over somebody's eyes. But that could be me mixed into the Northeast stuff and how it lands. Still, I felt like I came out WAY ahead. (probably bears more thinking)

And on the flip side, when somebody comes to clean my house I feel funny if the toilet isn't already clean. What do you suppose that's all about? And for the record, J, because you don't know me, I'm not entitled to anything.

On the subject of participating significantly in one's own life, I think you've hit it dead on. My entire sane anchor is who I am in my own household. Who I am before I leave in the morning, who I am on weekends when I prep for the week and who I am in the evening when I come home. Who I am in those moments in between is no longer who I am, it's just a bit of fun that somebody happens to pay me a butt load of money for. And finally, I might be ok with that. What I have not been all right with, ever, is detachment from my life. You know, the part I'm actually living here at home with the lasagne, the missing chickens, the excess eggs (oxymoron?), and the puff pastry fiasco for tomorrow night. In between the toilet gets cleaned and it might be me still doing it.

Alecto said...

oh yeah, and the bread, canning and garden I meant to mention before. You know, that stuff.

Wendy said...

I think you've touched on the thing that's missing from our lives here in modern America - "participation." Too often too much is done for us to the point that we feel like everything should be done for us. It's that sense of entitlement that I'm fighting hard to keep my younger kids from believing. My three youngest have chores and responsibilities, and they know that *I* need their help. I think that's a strongly empowering feeling. It's good to be needed.

Personally, I've become much more of a "participant" in my life in the last few years, and not only do I appreciate what I have more than I ever did, but I also enjoy it more.

Interesting how that all works out ;).

CG said...

One thing I think about is the sometimes weird ideas people have about what participation IS. We saw something on TV some years ago about a boy/man killed while snowmobiling. Turned out their hobby was seeing how fast they could go on a frozen lake and the most accurate way to measure speed is from directly in front of a speeding machine. So he got run over. What a stupid, useless way to choose to die. But his young widow said, "He lived life to the fullest," or some such crap. I'm sorry he's dead, and she's widowed, but standing in front of a speeding snowmobile is NOT *living*, it is being stupid. Our discernment (as a culture) is way out of whack.

MeadowLark said...

First, hi from both Home is... and Living the Frugal Life.

I enjoyed this post, but the last part about being killed while snowmobiling. Are we really able to judge whether someone's death is stupid? I mean, perhaps he was doing EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED TO AT THAT MOMENT???? I'm just not sure that we can accurately judge. I mean, look at the following:

a) man dies on a missions trip in the jungle reaches

b) man dies base jumping

c) man dies crushed under a tractor that popped out of gear while plowing his homesteading acreage.

I mean, which of these lives was "wasted"? Which of these deaths was "not living"?

Like they say, I hope to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather ------

Not screaming like the passengers in his car ;)

Anyway, just thinking out loud. Glad I found you. Look forward to returning.

And not to talk too much, but Alecto, I don't own the "clean my house before the housekeeper gets here" gene. I always wondered why.

Peace. :)
~Meadowlark

CG said...

Yes, I can judge. (we all do all the time and only the deluded try to say they don't) And my answer to your hypothetical would be all of them. Just because you are doing "what you want to do in that moment" doesn't mean that what you want to do isn't stupid.

MeadowLark said...

Your answer made me chuckle because right after I posted this I was talking to Husband about it and he reminded me that I am TOTALLY the biggest judge of "boy, that was stupid..." Like I'm some sort of arbitrator of intelligence. :)

CG said...

well, *my* husband said that your saying I couldn't judge that was itself a judgment, which is what I mean when I say that everyone judges. It is a good thing, to use discernment.

Also, I'd point out that the snowmobile-er's definition of "really living" was a bought out of the box on a credit card life, not a life made with his own hands. And while I think there is more value in a hand-built life, also, truth is, it is a necessity now to ourselves, our communities, and our planet that we value (that is, judge) that instead of the store boughten life.

MeadowLark said...

Sounds like we have wise husbands.