Friday, November 14, 2008

Better Off

Several weeks ago-I am not sure where (it could have been here) saw an article about Eric Brende. I had forgotten but a couple years ago when I was commuting everyday from Bethune to Columbia, I heard an interview with Eric Brende on NPR.

After a few touches like this, I decided to get his book Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology via inter-library loan. Eric Brende and his new wife (of 3 weeks) decide to spend 18 months in an Amish community (but more primitive than the Lancaster County Amish). No electricity or motors allowed.

I have a feeling I will be lifting a few paragraphs from this book as I get into it. From page 31 as he observes some neighbors crouching over a row of beans:

From a distance the casual onlooker mush have wondered how anyone could accept such a lot, apparently, up to the neck in sheer subsistence activities, uncomplaining, even contented, as if it were nothing. While the whole nation around them was going to incredible extremes to avoid such work, they had gone to conscious lengths to preserve it.

Why? There was this phrase they kept repeating: "Many hands make work light." The statement was true, though hard to explain. Gradually, as you applied yourself to your task, the threads of friendship and conversation would grow and connect you to laborers around you. Then everything suddenly became inverted. You'd forget you were working and get caught up in the camaraderie, the sense of lightened effort. This surely must rank among the greatest of labor-saving secrets.

...Physical work, then, served more than one function. Besides putting bread on the table and vigor into the physique, it also provided a special social elixir.

What really struck me about this was the 'new' meaning to saying "Many hands make work light"-that this isn't just an economy of scale if you will, but deeper. And I think back to a few weeks ago when we were taking trees down as a family-it took all day, but seem to fly by. Of course, there is the line I didn't quote from Mr. Brende early on in the book:

...I began to notice anomalies int he mechanical utopia of our modernized household. After we got an automatic dishwasher, the size of the pile of dirty plates on the counter didn't decrease at all. If anything it increased. My dad bought one of the first word processors ever made in hopes of easing the time and effort of writing. He spent so much time with that machine, I almost never saw him again.

I think I understand Mr. Culbreath's periodic blogfasts a bit better now-and maybe see that one may be due for me....

Oremus pro invicem!

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