I seem to be incurably addicted to making, doing, changing and improving things.
At some point, like maybe ten years ago, I finally was able to buy the right implement to do whatever it was I was attempting. I have no idea what it was, at this time, but probably something to do with faux-finishes.
Before that, getting the proper implements was never possible. I have realistically marbled tables and other surfaces with two old brushes, a bunch of q-tips, and some crayons and half a oil set from the thrift store. I used as paint whatever old stuff I found lying about, or happened to pick up at the “free paint distro” that used to happen (Does it still happen?) once a year. Oh, I also haunted the “mistints” isle. I might still do.
Last year I finished additional bookcases (the library was bursting) with home made chalk paint, because the price of the real thing made me speak Latin and intone several exorcisms I never learned and am not prepared to practice.
I don’t know if any real family had as a motto “I contrive” (A family in Georgette Heyer’s work did) but if there was one I’m probably related to them.
In fact, most of my interior decorating (not to mention dressing back before I looked like a potato) consists of my looking at some bizarrely expensive thing (and please, do realize I consider paying more than $20 for say an evening dress a terrible waste) sighing, and then spending a day thinking about how to make it for a tenth the price or less.
However, having used the right tools once or twice…. Well, it’s easier. And sometimes there is a real and obvious difference in the results. As in, if you don’t use the right tools, the thing looks kind of sort of right, but once you use the right tools you go “oh, obviously.”
Sometimes it’s just because doing it with “found objects” takes so long and requires so much effort that you don’t actually have what it takes for the final 10%.
Anyway, if the house deal goes through (Some troubling stuff found on one of the inspections, which I can’t fix myself, and is costly) or even if it doesn’t, the next couple of months are going to contain a lot of fixing, cleaning and painting, to get one house ready for sale, while the other will need some touch up for us to be happy living in. (If we don’t get this house,we’re still going to pack, paint and set up this one for sale, then rent an apartment for six months or so, until this house sells and we find somewhere to move to. I mean, I know I need to go lower altitude. It’s just the timing that will change. And I’ll be honest, I’d be less insane if we sold first. But who knows?)
Most of the stuff I need to do I can get the right tools and materials. But where that fails, I’ll have enough knowledge and understanding (by now) to contrive.
It’s not different for mental tools. In my oh so cherished fantasy of sending my mind back in time to when I was 20, note the deal would be “I get to take the skills I’ve acquired with me.” Why? Because at this point — and providing life stops interrupting every five minutes — I can write saleable books while tired, while sick, possibly while dead. I have internalized a bunch of mental tools on “how you do this.” When I was 20 I had more time, arguably was more methodical in proofreading, and had more enthusiasm and energy, but I lacked the tools. And what I produced took more effort and often showed thumb marks and badly mitered joints.
For some things, like the fact I’m stuck working in a language that was not my first or second, there is no remedy. I just must be that much better at using it, much closer to understanding how the thing works, so I can do consciously what would otherwise be subconscious.
Recently one of my young friends came to me with an astonishing story. One of his young friends had no idea who the combatants were in the Civil War. No, she didn’t know what civil war meant. She thought it was just a name. You know like it was an exceptionally polite war.
We are now in the fourth generation from whom the tools of building civilization, or even of maintaining it have been withheld. Yes, four, and I’m the middle one.
Most of my adult life has been learning things that someone should have taught me but didn’t for whatever reason.
Okay, mom is excused for not teaching me to cook on two heads — first, she was in fear of what I would do if given full access to cutting implements and fire (and frankly naive, as of course I knew what to do with both, and where to find them too); second, she assumed I’d have cooks and maids or at least someone to come and “do” for me once a day, which would include leaving dinner made and on warm. She thought this because I entered college. From her experience it was reasonable — she is also excuse for never teaching me dress making both because she can’t stand to see someone fumble at something she’s proficient at and because I had no interest in it till I was in my thirties.
I should have learned from grandad how to make my own varnish and also actual furniture making (instead of just refinishing.) That’s entirely on me. I never made time.
But there are are other things. I mean, husband and I to an extent were thrown in to the world with no clue how to do the most basic things, like home maintenance or how to clean with proper products, how to take care of clothes, how to do anything with our savings other than let it sit in the bank, how to organize and sort files and records. It goes on. (I do still tend to use bleach for most things. It’s cheap. I have at least learned what it will damage.) Our first ten years of marriage would make a good sitcom, as they had a repeating pattern: figure out we need to do something; extrapolate how it can be done; invest untold amount of time and effort into doing thing; find out after that it can be done in a simpler and cheaper way. And then people wonder why I curse.
And so many times, we just come up on something that must be done — even now — and have no clue how to get to the place where we can even think about how to do it. Teaching the kids what we never learned has been fun, too.
Heck, even in my religion — and I taught it was a young woman — I keep coming across these massive gaps where no one ever taught me what to do or why. As for the education my kids got: pfui.
In the same way, I’ve spent most of my adult life learning history, grammar, natural science and the basics of things that I supposedly learned the advanced form for with my degree, but without anyone ever teaching me the fundamentals.
Kind of like part of my degree is the study of literature but until I read Dwight Swain Techniques of the Selling Writer I’d never realized that books are composed of conflict and reaction units. (No, not physical conflict, though heck, you could sell that.) Instead I tried to fit them into the structure of plays and wondered why it wasn’t working.
Because no one had ever taught me the basics. I mean, I knew how to do a lot of advanced things, even as a beginning writer. I just had no clue how to do the basic things. And it showed.
For four generations our culture and education has been in the hands of an unholy hybrid of Marxism and Rousseau’s Romanticism. (The two are related in that both believe that natural man left to his own devices creates paradise.)
I can understand how those scarred by the long war of the 20th century would decide that they were going to ditch all the evil bad things in civilization and let the children grow up “naturally” so they would be sweet and innocent angels. (Spit.) I understand but I don’t forgive. If they thought what they saw in the war was the result of Western Civilization, they’d never studied other civilizations or for that matter hid in a playground and watched the children be “natural.”
Then the cascade started. People who only half learned could only half teach. On top of which the doubts instilled in them about the purpose of civilization made them teach less than half. And the next generation knew less. And then less.
More than once, as an inquisitive student, I’d go to my teacher and ask why something worked the way it did or didn’t work the way they said, only to be given a glib explanation I knew was wrong. I must have been 11 the first time I realized the teacher had no more clue than I did. (This was a good thing. It set me on a path of researching and investigating on my own.)
By the time my kids were in school it had become more so, partly because to justify themselves, and abate the feeling they were incompetent, people derived entire theories on why they shouldn’t learn the basics, learning the basics was bad, and you could be so much better by learning naturally.
I don’t have enough words to revile the “immersion” method of language learning, particularly was applied in our schools. Yes, sure “but the military used it”– yeah, but the military could enforce LIVING in the language. It also — which seems to elude most people — does teach people grammar and vocabulary in formal classroom settings.
What they do with the kids–
You see, I grew up in a place where a lot of my ancestors had grown up. Which means I know the capabilities of the family. Look, yeah, there’s a range, and sure, there are sports (and even known sports. Like the things that come out of younger son’s mouth resemble my paternal grandfather’s malappropisms. In a family gifted in words, both of them can mangle the simplest sentence… but only in speaking. In writing they’re completely fluent. I’m sure there’s some short circuit in the skull. Just not sure where.) But my family, time out of mind, has been really good at a few things. Sure, medicine and engineering. (Though I think I rebelled, as did cousin who is a lawyer and cousin who is a psychologist) but at a more basic level, we’re all good at words and history. The rest varies, but those are common.
So I was mildly alarmed when older son, in third year of French knew not one word, couldn’t carry on a conversation, could only repeat memorized phrases in certain situations.
So I did a deep dive into HOW he’d been learning.
Just so you know, they were given magazines for French teens and encouraged to leaf through them. Oh, they were also taught songs and plays. Which they didn’t understand because nothing was ever translated.
And the “total immersion” was maybe an hour a day or less, after which they could go back to normal life.
Are there people who can learn like that? Probably. I suspect my brother could. But I couldn’t have. I know this for a fact, because it’s how they tried to teach me German. Eventually I repaired it and spoke fluently, but it didn’t stick. Because I never learned the basics well enough. I can sort of read in German (with a dictionary) but I wouldn’t attempt it for anything complex.
After smoke stopped coming out of the top of my head, I took a summer and taught him French. The way I learned it. Boring, painful, annoying, often stupid, but it worked. I.e. I gave him lists upon lists of vocabulary to memorize. I taught him grammar and sentence construction. Once he reached “can limp along” stage I handed him the Three Musketeers and a few french mysteries in the original language and a French/English dictionary. And I started speaking French with him whenever the two of us were alone. (Which got us some interesting looks in our little grocery store.) The next year, he had As in French, and at the end of the year he passed the IB exam for French which was scored in France.
I think as with German, because it was repair over a bad structure, it didn’t stick, and he doesn’t remember much. And it’s my fault because I didn’t realize it early enough.
Part of the unlearning are people who never learned enough to realize what works and what doesn’t trying to do things in ways that only work for a very few highly gifted individuals. That’s how we got whole word, new math, total immersion, whateverthehelltheyretryingnow all of which involved “less work for teachers” and the vague hope that unschooled children, or children who learned ‘naturally’ were just somehow ‘better.’
Kind of like what would happen if I decided my digit dyslexic, half-baked way with wood meant my making, say, a table that was lopsided and wobbly made the table better and more authentic.
The problem is that in lieu of teaching our kids history or civics, what works and what doesn’t, we let people so ignorant of how the world works that they don’t realize they’re teaching the kids the just-so story of classes and oppression which was never true like that anywhere, and the religion of “social justice” instead of the real mechanisms of history. Because they know no facts, and can’t reason, they pat themselves on the back and say they’re teaching the kids not things, but “how to think.” Except they’re not. What they’re teaching the kids is how NOT to think. They teach them that thinking “wrong” is a crime worse than murder, and therefore they can’t risk reasoning, because it might lead them to dissent from the group. And dissent from the group is the most terrible of crimes. (To be fair, this is an effect of mass-industrial-public-schooling.)
Their inability to teach, now forces them to declare the most basic tools of civilization racist and somehow oppressive. Because this is an excuse not to teach math or English. Which they can’t do because they never learned, and they’re not willing to do the work.
If you’re not alarmed by this, you might be a Marxist or a Rousseauan who believes that by unlearning everything, we will be like angels.
You might also be an idiot, who never had to deal with infants or toddlers, or in fact ignorant and half-savage people.
Honestly, I believe this is at the bottom of their sanctification of the Homeless, because by eschewing civilized life (not really, but that’s how it looks to the left. In fact the homeless are kind of like rats. Domesticated and destructive of the society upon which they feed) and destroying their reason with drugs, they are somehow superior to us, who are bound by civilization. This is why they want to inflict the homeless on every large city, creating danger and filthy conditions for people who live and work there. “Afflicting the comfortable” is supposed to make them change their ways and… I don’t know? Become homeless? As if there were some great happiness in that.
But those of us who live in the real world know that living in filth and decay is not paradise. For anyone. We know that our ancestors spent millenia creating a world that was good for humans. Which included domesticating themselves, both by selection and learning.
Those of us who lived under more primitive conditions have no desire to go back there. Nor do the idiots who are pushing us that way. They simply don’t know how to be civilized, and have decided to make a virtue of necessity.
This is going implode. And by this, I mean this shell of civilization and knowledge, and ability that surrounds us and protects us. Already, anyone in highly technical fields is being actively hindered from doing their jobs by “administrators” which is to say maleducated people who know only how to make rules about how others should do things. And since they know nothing real, those rules are often counterproductive.
Heck, even in my field — not highly technical, but specialized — editors and publishers seem convinced their job is to “teach” the public, instead of sell to the public. Partly because they have no clue HOW to sell to the public, and are in the fourth generation that lacks basic skills to do so. (Like being able to read for pleasure.) They have therefore laid down rules that make it harder to produce and publish enjoyable works.
But it’s everywhere. And in research? The time frame and conditions of the research often makes the results flawed or irreproducible.
Oh, and of course, hiring people by skin color or sexual orientation makes bridges fall.
Even teaching — My kids had two or three good teachers who had escaped somehow — is made impossible by rules and regulations that have nothing to do with teaching or learning. (So those good teachers left to work the private sector.) As for parenting– In most states the law forces you to be an helicopter parent. I lived in fear of my kids being called in when they took their walks half a mile away to buy hotdogs at six. Even though at six I’d ranged all over the village all day, and come dragging in for dinner at sunset.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. And doing it well requires tools. Mental tools. Sure, you can do it upside down and sideways, with tools you found, but you still need to have tools.
In what comes after — and I’m suspecting/hoping it’s been somewhat postponed by the unlocking most places. People are so busy traveling and gathering they haven’t paid attention to politics. But it will come. The Junta will do something so egregious it will intrude on everyone’s notice — after the implosion/explosion that waits us, we need the tools to build.
Our kids certainly don’t have them.
Absent the tools they’ll default to “not fully civilized but trying” human method of governance, and really, I’m way too old to live under the divine right of kings.
If you have children, consider a reading program on western civ and particularly American history at whatever level they can handle.
Also, find the holes in your knowledge, and fix them. We live in a place and time where that’s easy.
Go back to the basics of civilization and acquire the tools. They won’t work very well, because acquired late, but it’s better than nothing. (Later, either after we move, or in a month or so, after house is ready to stage and we camp somewhere for a few months, in an apartment or something, I intend to re-learn Latin and Greek, which I taught myself poorly and late. At that time, we’ll set up a room where other people can come and walk along. We need that. A sort of free form academia, where some teach and some learn. I will, yes, in a month or two, set up to teach writing. Yes, I will charge, and I’m sorry. It is just what it is. One way or another, we’re going to need it. I’ll try not to do more than once or twice a month, or it eats the writing.)
It’s time to get the tools. To learn to do things. Whether those things are how to make clothes, or how to speak a foreign language, they might not save you much money or they might be totally impractical.
But you’ll be learning how to learn. Learning how to claw back a little bit of civilization, and basic knowledge. And then you should pass it on. By every way you can. Lest night fall forever.
Because 2000 years of civilization are a terrible thing to waste.
Go, learn, create and do. Be not afraid. You are not less nor less accomplished than your ancestors. You’ve simply been robbed of your heritage and given instead a pot of mess.
It’s time stop unmaking and start making. Start with the tools. Mental tools and habits will make the complex structures not easy but possible.
Go do it.