I was 18 and I had never flown before. My parents had taken me to over 40 of the contiguous United States, but every mile had been by car. Heck, only once had we stayed in a hotel and that was because of a hurricane which was about to strike the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In any case, I was nervous about flying and every crack, hiss, and jolt caused my tension level to rise. I convinced myself that I could focus on the flight attendants, they had flown before and would certainly show distress if we were about to plummet to our deaths.
That is an imperfect metaphor for the way I feel about the thinkers and historians whose works I read regarding economic collapse and the end of the American empire. It isn’t, of course that they have personally been through it already, but they are as expert as anyone can be in the field. I am satisfied being a pseudo expert on the topic, as I am satisfied being a pseudo intellectual, a pseudo writer, a pseudo local historian, a pseudo farmer, and a pseudo prepper. For those who say “good enough never is” I respond: “Yes it is, it’s a tautology!” My experience has shown me that putting “just enough” effort into things is an amazing way to have just enough time, effort, and resources to put into the next thing.
Just a little over a week ago I realized that one of my ersatz gurus had experienced a major life change. (I’m not trying to be coy here, but, as this may involve events which are very personal and some conjecture on my part, I don’t want to appear to be too National Inquirer-like and so I will not use his name.) He dropped casually into his formerly weekly news update that he had missed a few weeks because he was in the process of moving. With the clues he gave, narrowing down the location of his new home was fairly easy, and a real estate records search showed that he had taken out a mortgage on a new home in just his name, but his old homestead had not been sold.
I’ve been through a divorce. It was an immensely difficult time. To me it felt as though I had been kicked out of my own life. It was also the entre to the greatest happiness I have ever found.
For this man I can see that it very likely means that he no longer lives, and perhaps no longer completely owns, an investment in which he had placed so much of his time, his wealth, and his hope for the future, and this at a time when his words profess that he is very concerned about the prospects for the imminent collapse of the American economy. Yesterday he revealed that he is going to establish, at his new, much more walkable somewhat urban location, a smaller version of his rural homestead; a productive area closer in size and type to my backyard than to his former rural oasis.
His city is a smaller municipality along the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, but it is a city. A man who seemed the ultimate urban-phobe now lives within walking distance of a café or two, and a handful of ethnic restaurants. It’s a poor-ish community, but low in minority population; he would still find Springfield a little to melanin rich to be “safe” in an economic meltdown perhaps.
When meteorologists predict snow I listen as much or more to how the forecast is changing as I do the forecast itself: a shift from 2″-4″ to 6″-8″ or vice versa is the best indicator of how serious the storm will be. In the same vein I find this shift to be interesting.
On the other hand I see a man who is predicting a real estate crash splashing out major cash on a home and taking out a $170,000 mortgage. I’ve taken great pains to reduce my debt. I hope to have my home completely paid off in 4 or 5 years. I can’t imagine it was easy for him, having paid cash for a much more expensive property more than a decade ago, to take out a mortgage on a much more humble property. He clearly could have paid much less and still have lived in that same general area; it is not at all a fast growing part of a not at all fast growing region.
Plans are fragile things. The title of this essay is not a mantra or a slogan. I’ve had to use it as a mnemonic device to remember the best technique for going up and down stairs this week. You see, a few months ago I started feeling some soreness in my knee after losing(!) a race to my step-daughter. I ignored it for weeks and weeks until just this last Tuesday. I had a lot of errands to do and they all involved walking. I had started noticeably limping a week and a half ago, maybe more, but I stubbornly refused to do anything more than wear a sleeve on my knee.
Until, on Tuesday night, I couldn’t walk up the stairs; I had to crawl. I limped into work on Wednesday and made plans to be out the rest of the week. I visited the clinic I can see from my house…my wife DROVE me. I saw the orthopedist. I had X rays taken; soft tissue damage was the diagnosis. The treatment, R.I.C.E.:
On the bright side, it has done wonders. By last night I felt no pain, but from Tuesday until last night I had to remember to go up steps one stair at a time, with my left leg first…”up with the good”, and down stairs with my right leg first…”down with the bad”. In the interim I began to realize how easily my life plan, my resilience, my strategy for out maneuvering the zombies in the apocalypse, would all be undone if I were as “imposibilitado” as I had been for the last few days: wood stoves aren’t much good if you can’t bring wood up the stairs; a walkable neighborhood ceases to be walkable if you can’t walk; harvesting apples and peaches is much harder if you’ve got one hand on a cane.
I always knew it could all come crashing down. But “crashing” down was the key; some huge momentous event, unforeseen and unforeseeable. For want of a nail the kingdom was lost? Boring. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s like, even when you’ve done a really good job of preparing, you know, things go off in unexpected directions making your efforts seem almost fruitless. We should have some kind of saying to remind us of that.