Saturday, July 2, 2016

By Failing to Prepare, you are Preparing to Fail.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Very few people in society have probably read that quote. Even fewer would worry that it's a fact. Why are so many people now willing to sacrifice their personal liberty for that illusion of safety that comes from living under the authority of some higher power?  Even as the highest power of all has conveyed these words to man - "God helps those who help themselves".

In just a couple of generations, the entire concept of being accountable to oneself has been undermined, ridiculed even. Self reliance, the learning of skills that extend beyond a paycheck or a computer screen are treated as some archaic riposte of foolishness, unnecessary symbols of bygone days. Those that practice such skills are often perceived, not as practical or frugal, but as paranoid survivalists who should be viewed with fear and monitored by others.
I can't play a video game to any sort of level, but I understand how machinery works and what is needed to keep it working. I can handle most tools and cook in bulk and can. I'd rather not give you an appendectomy with a sharp pen and a bottle of Knob Creek, but I can set a broken bone, stitch up a wound or field dress my dinner without fuss.  Basics, things most of our grandparents probably knew how to do.   My grandmother arrived in this country from Sweden not speaking a word of English, with a trunk of sturdy hand sewn clothing the color of doves, hand stitched towels and embroidered linens and an infinite capacity for hard work. When she was widowed in her 30's after a logging accident, she put three children through college, two engineers, one criminal justice major. That work ethic, was passed on to my mother, and then to myself.

My clothing tends to more "hides the bloodstains" dark blue or black than Grandma's grey and my bug out kit is bigger than my makeup bag.  That's OK by me, and I think Grandma Gullikson would approve. For when disaster strikes,  I'll be ready as I can be, not sitting there waiting for my savior or my handout, hands hanging pale and useless.  Sometimes when you are left with nothing you still have your will for the hope to grab on to.

My tools and the books that instruct us of their use may be old, but they give me things that a person can not, an entity can not.  They give me my freedom. It's not a freedom from the law, I've given up much of my adult life to uphold and protect the law and my country.  It's not freedom from taxes, nature or fate. But it's freedom at its most basic. The freedom to succeed. The freedom to fail.
If you're afraid to fail, you'll never try. If you give up, you just go back.  I've stood in the center of a shop or even a laboratory and told myself that nothing is level or ever will be, nothing is deep enough or strong enough, and the words catch in my teeth and tear.  But I didn't give up. I may have cursed and I may have wept a tear of frustration as I discovered that often unmitigable discrepancy between will and capabilities. I've burned some remains.  

But I picked up my tools and tried it again, bluffing my way through the wood, as I tell it tall stories of mighty trees, teasing the floor with shavings of itself. The words are there, in the promise of design, in an old handbook, an illustration a hundred years old, someone who eventually did not fail. I'm the swing of the hammer, the trajectory of the bullet, the frame of a window. I work until long after dark, tossing the moon back like a shot of scotch, stopping only to toss the days bread in the oven, last call.
It's more than the desire to save money, it's more than the resolute and assumable will to alter and improve and remake. It's possessing the possibilities on which one can establish a sound structure for life, it's freedom. Certainly, it's easier to let others do the work, to just sit back and wait for help, wait for that handout, wait for that check you did not work to earn. But I can look in the mirror and see the the space and the solitude and its rewards, the broken nails and occasional scrape a sign of progress. It's the only way I can live, the entitlement mind set, to me, being like that of an animal, drawn to a baited trap from a wide open field, the instincts that would recognize a trap now dulled, not even comprehending it is doomed, and no longer afraid, for it was no longer free.

So, if you say "prepper" like it's a bad word, I'll just smile knowingly and go back quietly to my workbench or my canning. For I've learned something out in this big world one won't pick up watching the Bachelorette or the Kardashians. If you rely solely on others to feed you, to protect you and to sustain you, to prop you up and pat you on the back when you fail, you've not just made them your judge, you've made them your jailer. Even worse, it's a jail term without end, for it's done with the sanction of their own conscious.  

So laugh at my tools, make fun of me blowing up a chicken in the kitchen while I try and learn how to use a pressure cooker. Snicker at the blue barrels of grain and the first tiny garden out back that initially produced only two inch mutant carrots. I'm learning, and in that learning, I'm learning to live.
With the bread baked, lunches packed for tomorrow, I curl up with a book. I don't have a lot of "stuff" around me, no electronics but for the computer, a small TV in the basement hooked up to an antenna that's been on once in two years and that's just to be able to hear the tornado warning updates while we hunker down. But there is a lot of knowledge in this place, in books, in manuals, in notes, in someone willing to work with me, with love and patience as I learn, something that is gold in the hand, firm and secure.

With the books are those things that remind me why I chose to live my life the way I do. There's a flag and a small cross, ceremonial shapes of mortality, reminders that some choices are everlasting. There's a tail from a whitetail, taken in a hunt, food for a winter's table. There's some spent brass that either guarded or honored a life, a piece of old uniform fabric and the scents of sandalwood and gunpowder and freedom that soak into my skin and bones like ink, to stay with me to the end of days.

Being prepared is harder work than remorse, a lesson that as individuals, is easier to learn than as a nation.