Sippican Cottage

maple syrup


A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

I Looked Down, And There It Was (Redux)

[From 2007. Perhaps to be right too far in advance is the same as being wrong.]

It’s a hoary old joke my friend tells. The man of few words, in a restaurant slightly more elegant than he’s used to. The waiter asks: “How did you find your meal?” He answers: “I looked down, and there it was.”

Everything appears now, through a process so complex that no one can fully understand even a small portion of it. Persons that say they understand the machinations necessary to place the most mundane thing in front of a great many people well enough to regulate the whole affair, with an eye towards improving everything, are spouting nonsense. If a man walked up to you and confessed he didn’t know your name, but claimed he could list all the atoms in your body, would you hand him your wallet? How about your skin? All day long, I hear the groundskeepers telling me they should be the quarterback. And I can’t help noticing the grass has gone to seed, and the hash marks are crooked.

You look down, and there it is, all day long. There is a large chance that if you’re reading this, you have never participated in the actual making of anything in any meaningful way. And as the world gets more complex, we all get further and further removed from the ultimate source of all of our prosperity. How far removed? To the point where it gets obscure enough that it can be blithely strangled in its crib, on the supposition that it can be improved by infantile wishing, followed by fiat.

See the man on the sleigh, bringing the sap back to the shed to boil? He knows the tree like a brother. He knows the woods like a mother. He knows fire like a caveman. He knows commerce like a loanshark. He knows cold like a gravedigger. He knows sap like you know the alphabet. And he doesn’t have the slightest idea what you’re about, because you labor in a vineyard far removed from his — where the meaning of your efforts is likely always obscure, as all intellectual pursuits must be.

Remember always what you don’t know about him, lest one day, you look down, and there it ain’t.

5 Responses

  1. There is a large chance that if you're reading this, you have never participated in the actual making of anything in any meaningful way.

    If you had a normal set of readers, I'd have to agree. The other people who read your blog, though, they are exceptional. Maybe not maple-syrup exceptional, but I'd bet the world would be a smaller, shabbier place if they hadn't been in it.

    You're right, though – one day sooner than later, for anyone not already there, I suspect we'll all be looking down, and there it ain't.

  2. Some us remember how to to do those things, we’ve done them. But we’re getting old, and few of the younger people learn this stuff. Some do, I expect those away from the city learn some of it. I wish I still had the strength and energy to maintain the team of mules or horses, and use them. I miss that.
    The Old Woman

  3. I'm teaching my kids as much as I can (and learning on the way) I'm hoping the journey is worth it, perhaps I'll see some of it come to fruition.

  4. To see you posting, even redux, is somehow a comfort; like sitting with an old friend at the dimming of civilization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *