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.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
aka The Truths, part one