Went out for a grocery run on the weekend – and I noticed that the signs were up for the big annual five building garage-sale. Wasn’t late in the day, seemed reasonable to think that I could afford to swing-by on my return-trip – and I’m ninety-percent glad I did, too.
On the way back I was delayed just a bit – stopped at a street party fun-fair for local kids (no photos, because I don’t want to be that creepy guy). It was a backyard annual thing for years – created to raise money to send special-needs kids to camp. This year they took it public, blocked-off the whole street, set up no less than three bouncy-castles, had a huge water-balloon combat zone (squeals and giggles and the most hilariously colourful aftermath mess) some street-hockey, basketball – painting and crafts-tables, and of course, plenty of snacks and wacky loot! This was just a couple of streets down from us, too – not a big street, nor one known for partying in such an explicit way, before this. The very friendly lady I spoke to, left me with, “Come back tonight, we’ve got bands!” – and I went on my way – wanted to have a few minutes to check-out the big garage sale, before all the groceries lost their chill.
Funny thing about garage-sales, isn’t it? There are few withering traditions which so clearly speak to the devaluation of skilled human effort over the last few decades. One factor is the smaller and smaller spaces we live in, and another is the way we increasingly accept of the idea of continual distraction (that is, we’re unashamed of losing the ability to seriously concentrate). But I think the biggest factor is the progress of stupefying self-definitional fantasy. We all run around acting like the most important question in the world is – What do I want? (that is, what whim or appetite should I seek to gratify next?)
People long before us knew that there are plenty of other great questions – How can I help? How can I make that work, or work better? How can we discover the truth? How can we learn that lesson well, so that we don’t have to suffer that tragedy again? – But those sorts of questions require not just awareness of higher purposes, but a profound sense of our life being included within those purposes. Long long long before “Liberal” became a dirty word to some – “Society” struck many many others as an icky thing that they could turn away from, and thus no longer be a part of. This was always totally delusional crap – but the pose was so incredibly popular that it has spread (metastasized) from the more narcissistic parts of the counterculture, into the mainstream – so that even very normal and socially compliant people now think of themselves as rebels, simply because this gives them the feeling that what is wrong with society is external to them – and is in fact done deliberately, by a (never meaningfully-defined) ‘them’.
Thing is – there are consequences when we have unmet responsibilities – we feel stressed and worried, because we know that important problems are not being addressed (because we’re not addressing them) and what’s more, we tend to feel oppressed-by and super-resentful of the rules around us – sensible or not – because we’ve never been part of the debate and compromise which creates them, to find a way for many different people’s needs to be met at the same time. We’ll even complain that we’re being harassed by services we demand (fix that road now – but do it completely silently, without disrupting any traffic).
Personally, I’ve always loved garage sales, because I love doing work that creates solves or improves, so I adore empowering tools of all kinds – and we can almost always find troves of such, when a now-exhausted person who once had the idea – I don’t just resent society, my two hands help to shape it – is pulling back from their most-active phase.
But of course, someone has to set up some tables, and someone has to come to buy – and in the case of this particular sale, I got there about quarter to two (they said until one-thirty) and there was nothing, as they say, but crickets.
Oh, and this nifty bugger, (you really have to love interconnected urban ravine systems for bringing us such appealing wee diplomats – how else are the local foxes ever going to develop a taste for pate foie gras?)