Something Permanent (I)

This is an issue in my life that is deeply embedded into how I think and interact with the world.  So, I am going to devote a few posts to the subject.

I am interested in permanence.  I acknowledge that the culture, society, and the generation that I exist within are not as interested in permanence as I am, as previous generations have been.  What I am referencing, when I reference permanence is nearly everything I can think of.  I want to start by examining material permanence.

Common knowledge testifies that the physical products available in America define us as a disposable society: fast food, bottled water, single use cameras (not as popular anymore), text messages, one-night-stands, Keurig, Facebook, TMZ, diapers, batteries, sanitary wipes, cereal boxes, cell phones…  Many products even start with the word “disposable.”

I guess I’m different.  I’ve always known it–and I have never been interested in trash.  That’s what you throw away, trash–things that don’t last.  I don’t like jeans that feel thin.  I won’t buy boots that aren’t both glued and sewn to the sole.  I won’t write with a pencil, if I write in pencil I use the oversized mechanical pencil my dad gave me when I was eighteen.  I buy hard cover books and remove the dust jacket when I read them.  I love leather.

As a kid, I was very fortunate in that my great grandmother bought me and my three brothers school clothes twice a year all the way through ninth grade–until I got a job.  As a growing boy, it’s easy to get swallowed up in constant consumerism.  Even in college, I echoed the behaviors of my childhood and purchased clothes–which I didn’t need, at the time–at the beginning of each school year.

I didn’t critically assess my buying habits until a graduate professor of mine, Dr. Desmond Harding, was lecturing about a new idea that came about in the early twentieth century: replacing items you own before they wear out.  When I really thought about it, if it weren’t for vanity, in my college years, I wouldn’t have purchased new school clothes every fall.  I didn’t actually need them.

I felt I needed them because mine were out of style.  So, I began to imagine purchasing a wardrobe that would be immune to style.  If I could buy a wardrobe that was always in style, then I could wear my clothes until they wore out–and never replace them prematurely.  Popular fashion fads became clear to me very quickly after this.  I developed a bitter distaste for every fashion commercial I saw.  After all, 99% of what is being crammed down consumers’ throats is simply recycled from years gone by.

I wanted a classic style.  It had to be timeless, yet also me.  I quickly realized that such a thing is not built in a day–as a popular wardrobe can be.  A long-lasting wardrobe takes time–one piece at a time.  Let me tell you about one piece of my wardrobe that should make a statement about the rest.

When I was teaching 6 courses of composition between the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, I found the limits of the leather messenger bag my mother had bought me before I went off to Knox College for undergrad, over 400 miles from my hometown.  All of the books I had to carry were becoming too much and I worried that the strap would suddenly snap and the bag would fall and my laptop would smash to pieces when it hit the sidewalk.  Fortunately, this never happened.

But, I preemptively bought a new satchel–or rather a briefcase with a strap.  I spent a few months looking for the right bag.  I finally found it–listed on Amazon as “the bag they will fight over when you are dead.”  I ended up going to the seller’s website: Saddleback Leather.  It was a bag that spoke to my soul.

It was thick leather–so thick that it had to be broken in.  It was stiff when it arrived in the mail, so stiff I had to wrestle with it.  It also came with a no-nonsense 100 year guarantee.  My descendants are allowed to send the bag to the owner’s descendants if anything goes wrong with it.  I’m set.  I never have to buy another bag again.  I can use the bag my mom gave me to carry light books and not worry I am going to wear it out with heavy loads.

This is the type of permanence in material things that I am looking for in my life.  Once upon a time, things like clocks and watches came with guarantees to entice people to trust the maker and purchase them.  We simply don’t see as many guarantees as we used to.  There is a growing sub-culture in our society that really does hunger for long-lasting material possessions.  Guarantees would be a great way to not only attract customers and help the environment, but to initiate the change of the culture from think-little-disposable to well-reasoned-long-lasting.

20 thoughts on “Something Permanent (I)”

  1. Great writing Chilly, your message also speaks to me. This world of throw everything away before its worn out or stuff that wears out really quickly is ruining our society and our planet.

  2. A word of caution about permanent things: they need to be taken care of, maintained. And because they have the potential to last a lifetime, the maintenance, the care and attention is more, not less critical. Only if you care for that leather bag will it last for decades. Study it. Find the weakest piece, the latch or handle maybe, and make sure that is not neglected while you bask in the sheer durability of the rest of it. The love of your life: more not less attention! Nothing will bring you more joy, fulfillment and inspiration and motivation, and more empowerment and enablement, than a permanent loving relationship in your life. Nothing will break you down or bring more chaos and mayhem in your life than the deep in your gut knowledge that you did not care for her like you could have, and that you let that relationship suffer and die. You tend it with attention, with apology, with affection, with humility, with adventure and your money and your talent, and with regular public adoration. You don’t have to be ridiculous, but learn to honor her to others, and do not denigrate her to others, even in humor. And when you are an old man, she can bring you your old leather case, and you can share the lifetime of love letters and photographs you have accumulated! Ideas and institutions: the throw away culture dangerously thinks ideas are better because they are newer. Like smart phones…older is junk, newer is cool. Both ideas are flawed, but the former is delusional . “Sustainability ” for example, now the darling byword of environmentalist and government regulators, has been the heart and soul of business for a couple of centuries. When a biz is not sustainable, it vanishes. When a government agency is not sustainable, it bloats, and drifts, and it’s costs, direct and indirect are hidden and buried and uncounted. Corporations were formed to meet the need for a form of business organization that was sustainable, that did not die with its founder and get ground to burger with his/ her other assets in the post death administration of the estate.

    Freedom, it needs careful attention and periodic expense. Like love, it’s worth it. Civic engagement….belong where you are. Patronize your local vendors, don’t buy everything on line. Imagine your neighborhood without all of those stores and shops…you would be afraid to live there. It is your job to love your local vendors, and not just Starbucks. Even if you could get it cheaper on line, or a cheaper version at Walmart, think about buying locally, in the neighborhood. Or you will lose them.

    1. I can’t agree more–the things we cherish the most, our relationships, need to be taken care of the most. As a person of faith I do believe that the way God looks after and takes care of his people is a model for how we can treat others. The material things we have are almost like a stepping stone to our relationships–if you can understand how to take care of physical things, you are on your way toward understanding how to care relationships and people–though, admittedly, material things are easier to manage than people or relationships.

      –Your post did inspire me to take a deeper look at what maintenance means in regards to relationships and I will devote a post of my thoughts on it once I finish with the permanence sequence.

  3. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  4. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  5. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  6. Simply desire to say your article is as astonishing.
    The clarity in your post is simply nice and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please keep up the rewarding

  7. My brother suggested I might like this website. He was totally right.
    This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine
    simply how much time I had spent for this info!

  8. To begin with I want to say excellent blog!
    I had a quick question that I’d like to ask
    should you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how
    you center yourself and clear your thinking prior to writing.
    We have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out.
    I truly do enjoy writing nonetheless it just may seem like the 1st ten or fifteen minutes are generally lost simply just figuring out where to start.
    Any recommendations or hints? Thanks!

  9. I usually do not know the way i wound up here, but
    I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re seeing a famous blogger when you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  10. Will you mind generally if i quote a few of your posts so
    long as I provide credit and sources straight back to your site?
    My blog is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would genuinely take advantage of many of the information you present here.

    Please let me know if this type of ok together with you.

  11. Appreciating the hard work you put into your site
    and in depth information you offer. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while
    that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Fantastic read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS
    feeds to my Google account.

  12. We stumbled over here from the different page and thought I
    might check things out. I really like a few things i see so now i’m following you.
    Look ahead to exploring your internet page yet again.

  13. I just want to say I’m very new to blogging and really savored you’re website. Most likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely have great articles and reviews. Thanks a lot for sharing your web site.

Leave a Reply

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