Planting for the future


My friend Scott has a blog. It’s worth reading. I read this post, and it was quite productive of thought. I’ll wait while you go read it. Ok, you’re back. I’ve been thinking about long-term planning. I have eleven trees on order that I will plant in the spring, and it is possible that I never eat the fruit. Trees take a while to be productive, and tomorrow is promised to none of us. The tree catalog claims that if I buy their trees, I may be planting fruit trees for my grandchildren’s grandchildren. I like that thought.

We’re used to short term planning. Most of us only think a few months ahead. Try stretching out your timeline. If you have a little property, plant things that you can eat. Maybe you won’t eat from it, but someone will, someday.

Do this in other areas of your life as well. I coach people for a living at Barbell Logic, and clients sometimes get impatient or frustrated. Change doesn’t happen as quickly as we would like. I say, "Imagine what you’ll be like if you train consistently for the next five years!" Think even further. If you’re forty years old now, what will you be like at fifty? Sixty? If you make it that far, wouldn’t you like to have trained? Wouldn’t you like to have planted the trees?

I also work for Online Great Books. We help our members read through Adler’s list of the Great Books, with a few additions. The whole program takes years to finish. We’re not really sure exactly how long. Again, imagine what you’ll be like in five, ten, or twenty years if you read with us, and how different you’d be if you didn’t. Plant some trees in your mind!

Well-drilling and Angels

I got to watch a crew dig a well recently. I had never seen it done before, and I stood off to the side and watched them work. Four men acted as one, with very few words. They all knew what to do without having to communicate.

There were little techniques, too. The man running the drill wouldn’t look you in the eye when he spoke to you, because he only had eyes for the drill when it was running. He would listen, too, and would know what was deep beneath the earth by the sound that the drill made. Another man would use his shovel to catch the debris thrown up out of the shaft and would inspect them. Occasionally he would smell them. I myself noticed that when they got close to water, the odor changed to the scent of caverns. When the water came, they would taste it. The boss would stand estimating the flow rate. Would this be the a productive well or not?

There was beauty in the activity. Scott and I, along with Thomas Mirus read a book by Jacques Maritain about art. Every productive human activity counts as an art, although it’s not all fine art. As an art, it has a habitus, a way of being that makes the artist/crafstman "connatural" with the activity. You start to know what’s to be done without really thinking about it. Rather, the thinking is so much a part of you that you might not even be sure you’re doing it.

"Why did you do that thing?" "What thing? Um, I’m not really sure. Let me think about it." After a little while the craftsman will like give you a good, rational reason for the ‘thing’ that he did. It’s rational but has become so accustomed that it’s more like an intuition or gift from the gods.

St. Thomas Aquinas says somewhere that the higher levels of the lower levels of being approach the lower levels of the higher levels of being. In other words, the best of animals approach the lower levels of human activity. A good dog can almost seem human. This holds true for us as well. The best and highest of human activity approaches the activity of those above us. We used to call them angels. If that’s a bridge too far for you, just imagine aliens or demigods, or suppose "what if there were such things?" You can approach the angelic.

The way to do this is to get really good at something. The better you get at it, the more your reason becomes intellect. By that, I mean that you go from having to think slowly and discursively through premises and conclusions to the stage of grasping the whole truth in one simple intellectual act. If there is a God, this is how He knows, in one eternal intellectual act.

This is why I watch people who are good at their crafts. It’s like spying on higher beings.