I rescued a good bit of old trim from a nearby remodel. It was just going to go into the trash! It’s basically identical to the beautiful old trim on our house. I think I could make some nice small pieces (boxes, picture frames, etc) from this stack. But holy crap they loved to drive the nails.

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, p.29 (pdf):

A convivial society should be designed to allow all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools least controlled by others. People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative; while the growth of tools beyond a certain point increases regimentation, dependence, exploitation, and impotence.

Illich uses the word “tools” very broadly here: “rationally designed devices.” This includes everything from hammers to machines to health care systems. He defines conviviality as “individual freedom realized in personal interdependence.” A convivial tool, therefore, is a tool (broadly defined) that gives a person creative autonomy.

He contrasts this with industrial tools, which begin in service to a particular need but eventually capture the user and society itself. Think of cars. At first they vastly improved transportation. A hundred years later, we have traffic jams and car payments and car insurance and registration fees and BMV paperwork and the costs of maintenance and fuel. What began as a tool to serve humans has transformed into a tool served by humans.

Think now of computing devices and the internet. For those of us who remember life before them, their appearance was a revelation. Yet now we all have the experience of becoming servants to the tools. Modern technology is, in short, a monumental hassle. A hassle, furthermore, that we must endure if we are to participate in a tech-driven society. It is becoming increasingly difficult, for example, to live without a smartphone.

What if some part or another of our technology fails on a large scale, even for a brief time? How incapacitated would we be in such a situation? That would be a good measure of the degree to which our tools have become our masters.

Entrance to Green Man’s Grotto is finally complete. We’ll see if the wood-burned sign weathers well. I covered it in a few coats of polyurethane.

entrance to garden with new welcome signs

Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections p.161:

I was never able to agree with Freud that the dream is a “façade” behind which its meaning lies hidden—a meaning already known but maliciously, so to speak, withheld from consciousness. To me dreams are a part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive, but expresses something as best it can, just as a plant grows or animal seeks its good as best it can. These forms of life, too, have no wish to deceive our eyes, but we may deceive ourselves because our eyes are shortsighted. Or we hear amiss because our ears are rather deaf—but it is not our ears that wish to deceive us

This (unsurprisingly) jives with that Weird Studies podcast I mentioned a few days ago

One last picture of the completed project. It’s definitely utilitarian carpentry but it solves a few problems for us. Rachel put some struggling spinach plants in it for the time being but I doubt they’ll recover as the heat ramps up.

I’ve changed my ideas and practices a lot over the twenty-five years or so of my adult life. But one thing has remained constant since I was a kid devouring content at the Lew Rockwell website: I am a libertarian on social issues. In fact, my commitment to anti-authoritarian principles has only deepened. (To clarify, I am libertarian in this way only. I have long since abandoned libertarianism as a political philosophy.)

This seems to be an unpopular position across the spectrum these days. Large chunks of the right seem single-mindedly focused on imposing their religious views on everyone. Large chunks of the left seem single-mindedly focused on enforcing their own orthodoxy through cultural power.

How about letting people do what they want, so long as their actions do not block others from their own liberty? I’m quite aware that this is not a simple matter, that there are important discussions to be had about where my freedom and your freedom impinge on each other. It’s a conversation worth having but no one seems interested in that now. Today it’s all about the exercise of power to force others into submission.

Maybe it’s my background in an authoritarian, fundamentalist quasi-cult. I am viscerally repelled by people seeking to impose their beliefs on others. Hell, I don’t even like it when people try to loan me books because it feels like I’ve been handed an obligation. Why—why—do so many people seem utterly unable to tolerate the existence of people who do not believe or behave as they do? If I had to guess: since we all live in such uncertain times, maybe some people are desperate for conformity and certainty?

The thing that strikes me about the authoritarian tendency is its arrogance. I am baffled by people who stride about the world, certain that they know how others should be living and thinking. Are there no clouds of doubt in their mental atmosphere? Or are there nothing but clouds and they are seeking to banish them?

A libertarian stance on social and cultural issues—for me—acknowledges the fragmentary nature of our understanding. A truly humble attitude would see the life-altering nature of the decisions we are forced to make in our lives with something like a reverential awe. It would see the complexity of the forces that converge on a single being and shape their trajectory. It would hold those who must make those choices in care and compassion. Even when you would have chosen otherwise! Even when you believe they made a grave error!

For now, it appears that the short-term belongs to the power-hungry zealots. But zealots tend to burn themselves out or kill themselves off. Here’s hoping for a more humble future.

Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.143-144:

Among the so-called neurotics of our day there are a good many who in other ages would not have been neurotic—that is, divided against themselves. If they had lived in a period and in a milieu in which man was still linked by myth with the world of the ancestors, and thus with nature truly experienced and not merely seen from outside, they would have been spared this division with themselves. I am speaking of those who can not tolerate the loss of myth and who can neither find a way to a merely exterior world, to the world as seen by science, nor rest satisfied with an intellectual juggling with words, which has nothing whatsoever to do with wisdom.

Rachel and I went on our first foraging expedition today and came home with a bagful of wood sorrel, which we added to green smoothies.

Now it just needs a few pieces of trim, some paint, and a pile of dirt. I’ll post a final picture once it is finished and planted.

The supervisor inspecting our work. He has requested that we use the space to plant peanuts.