Well-made things don’t “just fall apart”; we are accountable.
The story of “It just fell apart” begins at my former neighbors’ house in Tucson, Arizona. The neighbor had had a small wooden table sitting outside the house for months on end, deteriorating in the ever-changing temperature and humidity and looking more rickety every day. One morning, I saw that the pieces of the little table had been piled at the curb for Big Trash Day.
“It’s a shame about that little table,” I said to the neighbor. “It was kind of cute.”
“It just fell apart,” he said with a shrug.
He was lying: it didn’t “just fall apart.” I’d watched it deteriorate with my own two eyes, and so had they. They let it fall apart. It was no surprise.
It pissed me off enough that I rescued the parts of the little table to see if I could repair it. I couldn’t—it was too warped—so out it went to the curb again.
There are several lessons for me here.
- The first is obvious, that we have to be accountable for our own actions.
- Inaction is a choice as well; not choosing is a choice.
- Our actions or neglect have consequences.
- While there may be a random factor at play in many situations, we have both more and less influence over our environment than we think. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes, but we are better people if we try to do what we can. (See “Pie Chart” for related ideas.)
- We should not be in denial about our own role in a situation; this kind of willful ignorance can be costly, and isn’t healthy.
- I can’t fix everything. (See “Respect” about something else I can’t save.)
That’s a lot of lessons to get out of a pile of wooden trash at the curb.
My former neighbors in Tucson weren’t very nice people. They were fundamentalist homophobes who demonstrated against Pride in the Park and whose mother-in-law spied on me through the fence while smoking cigarettes. I don’t want to be anything like those unpleasant people who blame everything but themselves. I will keep striving not to kid myself about what I’m not doing.