Thoreau made the perfect pencil, then never made another
Regarding society, I keep thinking back to Dylan’s song – Everything is Broken. What other way is there to describe society? Everything actually is broken. It is almost pointless to talk about how broken everything is. Why? Because there is no firm philosophical footing to stand on. Should money be made by the market? Sure. But that’s not how it is and not how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. Best just to hunker down, stand up for what is right in whatever way you can, take your family to church. Prepare for more brokenness. None of these problems are going to get ‘fixed’ in any meaningful way. Society is headed to catastrophe, and then after that something else can be built. Hopefully in a way which follows the light of Christ.
Modern man has had his hurrah. He built his skyscrapers, his great monuments on the “glowing wisp of vapor” and now it is time for the next chapter. I hope the next chapter is based on the principles of Christ, but it will probably more of the human same – power for a few, great slavery for everyone else. Modern man chased money, false idols, ignorant economic theories. He has been ripped off of so much in life that is great – morals, values, good living, family, praying to God, meditating on the life of Christ. He has gotten sports icons, economic theory based on catastrophically foolish ideas such as printing fiat to prosperity, and heavy debt load as the means to true wealth. This has allowed a great false boom, a hollowed mountain, giving the illusion of lasting power, but as fragile and fleeting as the wind. And so many bought it, built fortunes with it, spent their whole life in pursuit of that which is nothing.
I remember a story of Thoreau, whose father had a pencil-making business. Thoreau set out to improve the pencil. He succeeded. Then he stopped. Moved out to Walden pond, wrote in the mornings and wandered in the afternoons, moving forward with life. Now, the modern man, if he had devised a clever new device, he would contract with a factory in Thailand, or China, to produce barrels full of pencils. He would hire an ocean going shipper to bring them into america, truckers to truck them across the country, retail stores to properly place and sell his wares. He would grind out, day after day, the business of business, and increasing profits, decreasing expenses. He would do his bookkeeping and taxes. He would have an attorney on standby. His life would revolve around his pencil business. He might grow rich, divorce his wife, buy a yacht and get drunk on it. He would get new teeth as he aged, maybe expensive injections into his face to look younger. In short, he would be a fool. This is why I think Thoreau will be read forever. No one will care about warren buffet in 1000 years, just as no one cares about JP Morgan only 100 years later. But the people of the future will remember Thoreau.
Which reminds me of one of Thoreau’s great passages. In a week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, he goes sailing with his brother. The writing is some of the best I’ve ever read – vibrant and joyful – maybe because he is writing about time he spent with his brother. I looked recently to find that part of the book and didn’t find it. I will have to reread it. Thoreau was not interested in increasing the profit margins in the pencil making business. He was interested in sailing with his brother. This is life.
“Ain’t no use jiving, ain’t no use joking, everything is broken.”
But it’s just another beautiful June night in Florida. Hot and balmy. Sweaty and perfect. The sweet sweet summer. Here’s hoping you’re sailing on the water with a brother, loving your great wife, kissing your sweet children and praying to the good Lord above.