19 December 2009

Quakers in the Country: Transportation

I guess that we have a different view of transportation than do people who live closer in to town. We’re not really that far out, perhaps two miles to the blacktop and three more to the post office and feed store. Of course, in the metropolis of Belmont, Ohio, that’s about all you get. There’s a little dry goods store there in town, all creaky old board floors and glass-fronted wooden cabinets that haven’t been moved in 75 years, probably. But if you want to buy green onions, it’s a 50 mile round trip to a chain grocery store, and going to the very good local library is at least 20. And of course, now that the kids are attending the giant public elementary school across the interstate, they ride the school bus about an hour each way. You know you live out and away when the school bus drives up for your children, turns around in your dooryard, and heads back the same way it came.

Being far away from town means that transportation is an issue. The little town of Zebra up the road to the north about two miles closed its post office in 1901, and now David Kemp parks his pickup in the cellar under the old dry goods store. So we can’t buy anything there, nor can we buy anything in Lampville, about a mile to the south, because there’s nothing left there except a couple of old derelict pickup campers for the deer hunters and a one-holer outhouse that we occasionally use when we take walks in the evening. Nope, if we want to buy a gallon of ice cream or a hammer, it’s a twenty-mile round trip. To buy a piece of plywood is 50 miles, like the green onions. They tell me that there’s another general store in Centerville, about 15 miles to the east, but I’ve never been there, as it’s not on the way to anywhere I need to go. The reality is that out where we live, being able to go to meeting, to the grocery store, to the library, to anything like that, all require a commitment to some sort of significant transportation device.

The local Amish use buggies, surreys, and hacks to get around, at a pretty smart clip, too, with those standardbreds that they use. Toby Yoder once told me that one particularly good horse he had could make the 28 miles to Quaker City in about two and a half hours. They’re also the best vehicles for snow country, as a lightweight buggy can go places where any four-wheel-drive would founder hopelessly. We could buy a very decent buggy for about $1500, a sort-of decent horse for another $1500, and then a new set of nylon harness for about $300. Not too bad, and we have enough hay field to keep a horse fed cheap except in the winter. But so far all that we have is Dude, the twenty-five dollar donkey who is actually worth much less, as far as I’m concerned. The kids tell me that he is broken both for saddle and to drive, but Dude’s major function up to this point has been to provide sympathy to my hard-working and lonely wife when she wants a break from five demanding children and from coping alone with our perpetually deteriorating infrastructure, while I’m out on the road. When she needs a kindred spirit and I’m out driving through snow storms in Iowa, Shawna heads out to the old post-and-beam barn that Dude lives under, and shovels out his accumulating piles of organic matter. Then she sits down in a clean spot, and Dude comes up for companionship and to investigate her pockets for carrots. Dude doesn’t think nearly so well of me, and when I hold out a carrot he just stares back warily as if I was some sort of noxious vermin. The feeling is entirely mutual. One of these days, we’ll build a donkey cart out of pieces of old Chevrolet, and Dude can start contributing in other ways, but until then the donkey is mostly just a work- in-progress.

The kids are all self-taught bicycle riders. We live on a hilltop, so teaching yourself to roll down is pretty easy. They all start with the off-road tricycles their very kind grandmother bought for them from Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, and graduate to two wheels whenever they want. But the bicycles are strictly recreational. They don’t work in the snow, which can be considerable, and the problem with hills is that every time you whiz down one going away, you have to chug back up to get home again. And the kids all know that going to see the neighbor kids is at least two or three miles, and while I’m not at all averse to telling them to hoof it, my lovely wife is more gracious and takes them in whatever excuse for a car we currently drive.


We consume cars out here, because our life is not gentle to them. Our roads are gravel, mud, dirt, and snow, and to leave our house in two directions you must drive through the creeks to get out (unless the water is too deep). The third direction is a long exposed ridge, about the highest place in the county. There’s no water up there, but after a snowfall the road may be as much as a foot or two deep in powder. The only way to take it then is with speed and dedication, but once you learn where the road is under the featureless blanket of snow on the hilltop, it’s actually not bad. While the snow is actually blowing and the windshield is blank, you have to steer slowly along the road by looking out an open side window and gauging your distance from the fence that parallels the road on one side. This is important, because if you stray too far to the other side, you tumble down a forty-five degree slope into the holler and won’t be found until spring.


The fresh summer road gravel sandblasts the car’s undercarriage, and the winter salt corrodes anything that can oxidize. We have a useful little minivan right now, and the sheet metal has holes in various places underneath where the gravel has eroded the metal away. In the summertime when the roads are dusty, the car fills with clouds of silt that get sucked into the unibody through the holes, and then is blown into the interior through the inner body vents thoughtfully provided by designers who obviously didn’t live in the country. When I drive, I steer with one hand and hold the door open with the other to let the slipstream suck the dust back out as it comes in. I have to open the door because the designers also equipped the car with power windows, which of course don’t work anymore and cost hundreds of dollars to fix. (The used ones I bought from the junkyard didn’t work any better than the used ones they replaced. I have never been able to learn that simple lesson. Oh, well.)

Tires are a problem, too. We don’t buy high-quality tires, because the sharp limestone and cinders the township uses for road metal shred them too quickly. Shawna doesn’t even have the replacement wheels mounted on the car anymore. When another one starts to leak or shows too much wire in the tread area, she goes down to Joe’s Tires and has Joe or his brother put on a new one and lift it into the back, behind the rear seat. Then when the tire blows, she changes to the new one on the roadside and has the next new one mounted and thrown into the back in turn. I asked her the other day if it would be easier just to bungee the new tires onto the roof, but I got the impression she was concerned by what people would say.

We have a few other vehicles kicking around. The old one-ton market van is sitting down by the warehouse, waiting for me to do something to it. It has a rear axle that howls and it needs valve seals, but since we don’t go to the Farmer’s Markets to sell beeswax and honey these days there isn’t much incentive to fix it. Besides, with the 4:11 rear end it only gets six or seven miles to the gallon, and though it holds all the kids legally and groceries too, it really isn’t economical. But it has lots of useful parts that can easily be adapted to other deteriorating vehicles we might end up with, so I keep it around. Besides, it's a cheap place to store things that the raccoons might otherwise make away with.


The two bee trucks are more useful, potentially, anyway. We used them to move us and our bee business from California when we came east to join up with Ohio Yearly Meeting. The little one-ton flatbed dually is four-wheel-drive, and can get in and out of the property on days when the snow or the creeks are too deep for anything else. When the well goes dry in the summer, we also use it to haul water from town, because the 4000-pound water tank is too heavy for anything else and the county won’t let us fill it from the nice new fire hydrant just two miles up the road. Currently it’s parked like the market van, because the front end has a frightening way of shaking its head violently on smooth roads, and we don’t have the thousand or so dollars it will undoubtedly take to fix. It’s only got about 40 or 50 thousand miles on its fourth engine, so we’re going to keep it until the rust makes it disintegrate.

The two-ton flat bed is parked out by the old carriage house. We bought it when I rolled the last one in California. Ever seen 15,000 pounds of honey spilled out over the road? Not pretty, especially when you’re hanging upside down from the seat belt. It has a nearly new Payne beehive loader on the back, but runs on propane. A propane truck is a good idea in some places and times, and when agricultural propane was cheap it made good sense to run it, even though it only gets 3.7 miles per gallon. A two-ton is a critically important tool to use if you’re running a 900-hive bee outfit, like we did in California, but out here in Ohio it seems less useful. But since we couldn’t get any money for it if we sold it, we leave it parked there, for the time being. I miss keeping bees, and running a few hundred hives is not a really time-consuming sideline if you can be there at the right times. Not right now, while I’m working as Billy Big Rigger.

And of course, there’s my ancient Triumph Bonneville, kept down in the warehouse. I’ve had that old motorcycle seventeen years longer than I’ve had my wife, and while that’s not a value-for-value comparison, I have no intention of relinquishing my relationship with either one. Motorcycles make excellent sense out here, although a four-wheel-drive ATV would be more useful in the woods. I’d like a sidecar for it, but that’s a low priority plan.

I’d trust the kids on an ATV sooner than I’d trust them on a motorcycle anyway. The two oldest can drive a car now that they’re tall enough. We start them out when they’re ten or eleven to get them used to the machine. They both need lots more practice, but where we live it’s not like there’s any traffic to worry about. We just don’t want them dropping off the road into the ravines by mistake. Or on purpose. There’s no such thing as traffic cops anywhere near where we live, now that the sherriff’s deputy and the nice young lady just up the road have apparently parted company, so there’s no societal issues involved in letting a ten year-old get behind the wheel on a public road.

But maintaining all these machines costs money if you use them, and I’m also getting more and more fed up with the aggravation and hassle of depending on internal combustion engines and machinery for transportation. A typical Amish buggy is about as low-tech as you can get and not be walking, and in our neighborhood you don’t need the electric lights and hydraulic brakes that the modern buggies a few counties north of us all come with. As fuel becomes more and more expensive, our lifestyle may be approaching a point where the regression lines cross, and suddenly animal traction begins to make more sense. We’ll need to modify our household economy, and not having the community infrastructure that the Amish have will mean that we’ll never be rid of the family car completely, but it’s becoming a more attractive alternative every day.

And since driving in a buggy means exposure to cold winter weather, we’ll need something nice and warm to spread out across our knees. We don’t have any buffalo here to make robes with, but I happen to know where there’s a fair-sized donkey that I could skin out in a jiffy. Besides, I hear that donkeys make excellent sausage, and I’m the only vegetarian in the house.

Maybe I could work something out here.

13 December 2009

Quakers in the Country: The Wife

Proverbs 31:10-12 Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
Living in the country and trying to make ends meet and keep things from breaking presents a lot of challenges to people, and one of the things that I recommend to any potential Husband who is contemplating a life spent on dirt roads far away from town is to work out a deal with a Wife. Not just any Wife, because not just any Wife will do. There are very specific and very difficult aspects of this sort of lifestyle, and yoking to just any Wife that comes along and expresses a desire to live forever with an outdoor toilet is likely to result in unforeseen incompatibilities. I have discovered a formula for solving this problem, and while I admit that it may not be applicable to every Husband’s situation, it certainly provides some general guidelines, which I am happy to share with you now.
Wives, please sheath your various implements of destruction. I have no experience with locker room conversations about Wives and their characteristics in that venue, and mean no disrespect to those of us with those extra X chromosomes. I merely have some basic knowledge to impart to potential Husbands, and if it doesn’t apply to you, please don’t hold it against me.
First and foremost, Husbands, find yourself a Wife with whom you are functionally compatible. By this I don’t mean that you must share political views or possess identical tastes in foreign food. But if you plan on moving towards a subsistence household economy with an agricultural substructure, don’t bother to begin negotiations with a potential Wife who hates soil and dislikes plants and animals. Find yourself someone who likes to grow flowers, especially one who likes the idea of growing plants and then eating them. Plants can be pretty, but a Wife who knows that good-looking plants can be eaten as well is what you’re looking for.
Functional compatibility takes on other aspects, too. Living in the country requires an intimate relationship with dirt and mud, so investigate the preferences of any potential Wife in these areas. In my own case, I discovered an instant combination of an agricultural predisposition and a high tolerance for mud when I noticed sunflowers sprouting from discarded seeds in the impressive layers of mud packed into the carpet of one potential Wife’s otherwise shiny red pickup truck. “Hmmmm,” I said. “This one bears further looking into.”
Of course, a pickup truck is itself a good sign. It doesn’t need to be impressive, or large, or have extra levers in the floorboards. But if your potential Wife drives a pickup truck, rather than, say, a Vespa, then you’re on the right track. Nothing wrong with Vespas, for people who live in town, but a pickup truck is more suited to carrying goat feed, pieces of pipe, very large dogs, and other country necessities. Your potential Wife doesn’t need to actually be doing these things when you spot her—owning the pickup is a pre-adaptation to country life that is already a useful indicator of compatibility.
Another thing to look for in an appropriate Wife is a willingness to give up large portions of financial security for an almost inevitable helping of uncertainty and a lowered level of income. Country life is like that. You ain’t going to be rich, and it’s important to look for a potential Wife who is tolerant of a similar downsizing of financial goals. It helps to locate one who isn’t really interested in expensive possessions, foreign vacations, or decent clothing and shelter. Instead, find one who is willing to wear rags, live in houses condemned by the county, and will spend her time looking over potential farm property in places like Oregon, for instance, or Ohio. If she can do this all alone without you being there, so much the better.
Resourcefulness is a desirable characteristic that varies among potential Wives, and a high degree of resourcefulness will pay you many times over when things break and you can’t be there to make them right again. I am fortunate enough to have a Wife who is willing to tackle any repair job she encounters, armed with nothing more impressive than packing tape and pushpins. She can patch sheetrock, install room partitions, seal blown out windows, and perform many other tasks using only these mundane miracle tools. I once proudly told her that the Titanic would never have sunk if she had been on board with a large enough supply of packing tape and pushpins, but I’m afraid she didn’t see it as a compliment.
Resourcefulness is important in larger ways, too. On occasion, our ancient fire-breathing coal furnace under the house will burn out its shroud and begin to puff coal smoke into the house through the vents. When the temperature is only a few degrees above zero Fahrenheit, this presents a dilemma. Should we freeze to death, or perish from asphyxiation first? A Wife with a sufficient amount of resourcefulness will ascertain that a chimney flue can be satisfactorily repaired with aluminum foil and wads of fiberglass batting from the auto parts store. A few pushpins are helpful, too.
A hard-headed sense of financial priorities is something that makes a certain type of Wife extremely valuable in hard times. When money is tight, a financially-competent Wife will know that it is more important to pay the electric bill than the garbage bill. Of course, it would help to tell the garbage people to come and get their dumpster rather than just letting the bills stack up, but you can’t expect everything. An understanding of financial priorities when raising five children alone is important too. When faced with purchasing groceries or making sure that the kids have the supplies for their upcoming Christmas parties at public school, a financially-competent Wife will realize that while an eight-year-old will not long remember eating fried dough for a week, she will remember the trauma of being unprepared for her class party for the rest of her life. Besides, fried dough is actually not too bad. In John Steinbeck’s epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, Ma Joad’s family learns to eat fried dough in California’s agricultural Central Valley. And so did I, in the company of a Wife who knew her business.
A lack of squeamishness is very important to look for. Of course, giving birth at home to five children under conditions reminiscent of the motion picture How the West Was Won would tend to erase squeamishness in most people, but it still helps to have as little as possible going in. Having a high squeamishness threshold is helpful to a Wife who needs to regularly empty the bathroom bucket that a house with five small children and no indoor plumbing will find essential. And occasionally lifting dead 120-pound Rottweilers out of the van and burying them is a task that many lesser Wives might quail at. Living with a sink full of dirty, smelly dishes that must sit for a week because the well has gone dry again requires a tolerance for grossness as well, as does the accompanying infrequency of taking a bath. And of course, cats, dogs, and children seem to collect portions of eviscerated wildlife that squeeze softly under your bare feet when you step outside the kitchen porch in the pre-dawn. (What is this, now, another short-tailed shrew or just a length of deer intestine? Do I want to turn on the light or just hope the dogs eat it before I find out what it is?)
But aside from skills such as these, the kind of Wife you should be looking for is one who has a sense of proportion, coupled with humor, because if you can’t laugh at the tragedies and misadventures of living in the country, you won’t last long out here, no matter how competent you are in other ways . I have been particularly blessed with a Wife who can see the humor in many of my beliefs and activities, and who doesn’t hesitate to assist me by frequently pointing out the amusing stupidity of one or another of my actions, and always offers useful corrections for me to undertake. This is of immense value, of course, and I pay strict attention to every detail and invariably take her advice.
There are also apparently minor characteristics that seem to take on added importance during various encounters with fate and fortune in a country-based lifestyle. I heartily recommend seeking out a potential Wife from among the very small but very significant pool of blonde left-handed belly dancers with degrees in English Literature, preferably no more than five feet two inches tall. Of course, your own situation may be different, but these characteristics seem to provide a foundation for making a good Wife that is hard to further identify, even though it seems to be important. The five-foot-two stature cannot be overrated, because there is no better technique for deflecting a devastating point in debate than to approach the Wife closely so that the top of her head is located directly beneath your chin, and then to ask, “Did someone say something?” as you look blankly around the kitchen.
Finally, a common interest in spiritual matters is a key to life-long compatibility and a functionally successful relationship. Such a Wife will not only provide great value to a household economy, but will also perceive strategic avenues in making a relationship with God a matter of growth and improvement, rather than stasis and stagnation. This common focus also manages to bridge over the low points and inevitable compatibility crises that any marriage to a temperamental, hot-headed, and immensely stubborn Wife will occasionally present, especially when the money and food is gone and the coal pile is scraped down to the underlying snow. In the final analysis, this is probably the most important aspect of the relationship to consider, once you establish that you both speak the same language.
Then again, in my own relationship with my own Wife, I realize that we really don’t speak the same language, at least not always, and sometimes not very often. Yet it seems to work anyway, so perhaps that isn’t as important as I had thought.
So, Husbands, I hope some of these pointers will prove useful to you in your seeking after a compatible and complementary Wife, and I wish you good fortune in the search. I’m not looking anymore, and you can’t have mine, but I will indeed hold my own Wife up as the example that all of you should look to in your own search.
Best wishes and may Providence bless you as it has blessed me.
Proverbs 31:29-31 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.


Matthew 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Try just repeating it to yourself: simplicity. The word itself sounds so, well, simple.
Why is it that we Friends are so concerned with simplicity? We seem to write about it a lot. I’ve thought about it a lot, too, and as I see it, simplicity is not as easy as you might think. Simplicity means very different things to different groups of Friends. Most Friends’ books of Discipline or Faith and Practice will address the issue somewhere, either under “Testimonies” or the category of “Advices and Queries,” if they still maintain them. In the older Disciplines, it won’t appear as “Simplicity,” but will show up here and there under “Temperance and Moderation,” “Plainness,” and the like. We don’t know where to put it, but we manage somehow.
In general, the recommendations fall into two categories. First, the pursuit of simplicity calls upon Friends—and everybody else, too—to avoid superfluous possessions, expenditures, and consumption, so as to simplify our responsibilities and impacts as stewards of the creation. That’s commendable and pretty straightforward. Second, it calls upon people to avoid activities, occupations, and excessive attention to anything that might result in a lack of attention being devoted to more eternally significant spiritual matters.
My own Ohio Yearly Meeting’s Discipline section on “Simplicity” follows our traditional practice of never stating anything clearly when oblique and vague alternatives are available. (You gotta love us.) “Simplicity” is talked about in several places, but never defined. The best we can do is to state this much about simplicity:
The heart of Christian simplicity lies in the singleness of purpose which is required by the injunction to seek first the Kingdom of God. As men seek to express the spirit of God in the daily lives they realize the necessity of putting first things first . . . . The call to each is to abandon those things that clutter his life and to press toward the goal unhampered. This is true simplicity.
Actually, this isn’t so bad, for Conservative Friends, anyway. We also mention it in other places, too, here and there, without really going into why simplicity is less distracting than complexity. After all, having too much of something is sometimes less distracting than having too little of it. Food, for instance. Or shelter. Many years ago, George Orwell wrote that the only people who didn’t think about money were people who had lots of it; people who had very little money thought about it all the time.
And is there a point where the pursuit of simplicity becomes a distraction? Can simplicity itself become a notional pursuit that enslaves, rather than frees, the follower? What about Zen and the art of archery, or Lao Tzu and his impossible parables? And voluntary poverty, and those annoyingly persistent Franciscans?
It turns out simplicity is actually sort of complicated.
In my own case, the pursuit of simplicity has been a calling that I have pursued all my life, consciously, actively. With greater and lesser success in different ways, at different times. When choosing between two tools to add to my inventory, I generally choose one that solves the problem with the fewest unnecessary features. Features are the enemy of simplicity, the mission creep of non-necessities that whittle away at our attention. When selecting a new pocket knife, for example, I avoid the all-in-one tools with a gadget for every purpose. My pocket knives all have a single blade, one that locks in place so that it won’t fold shut on my fingers, and a design that can be opened with one hand. That’s it. I used to carry switch blades because they satisfied all these conditions admirably, but that particular tool makes me unpopular in some circles, so I don’t carry them anymore.
There are other examples. In automobiles, I prefer cheap and easy standard transmissions to automatics, windows that crank open without a motor, rubber mats rather than carpets, and mechanical actuators and control systems rather than hydraulic, electric, or solid state. I also prefer carburetors to fuel injection, and no, I don’t care if it’s just a throttle body. In kitchen tools, I avoid anything with a power cord, and when I cook (rarely now that I live in my truck) I generally cook from scratch. (Ask me sometime about how I discovered that you can buy cornbread mixes in a box—I hadn’t a clue that you could do that.)
I bought a used motorcycle when I was in school, years ago. It worked okay for me, and so I’ve kept it for the last 33 years. It works better now than it did when I bought it, and I don’t see the need to replace it with something else. It’s not as quick or as fast as a newer, more complex machine, but I know every single part inside it personally and if I twist the throttle it will still double the legal speed limit.
And I’ve ditched televisions sets for many years now, and almost completely abandoned radios, too. I don’t have a lot in the way of recorded music, and I don’t pursue a lot of time-consuming entertainments: motion pictures, sports, politics and so on. Let’s not talk about books. I’m no good at getting rid of books, and besides, I don’t have to. God regularly destroys the books I accumulate in traumatic ways, so I try not to worry about them much anymore.
In a previous life, I used to consciously try to add to the complex of data available in my head. For instance, I made it a point to learn to identify all the species of mammals in my state, all the genera in my country, all the families in the world. Not so hard with mammals, actually, as there’s not very many of them, and most are my favorites anyway: bats and rats. I can still identify most of the canids in North America (wolves, coyotes, and various foxes) by nothing more than isolated lower jaw bones. But I’ve mellowed on mammalogy, and while I still enjoy the critters, now I’m not so intense. I’ve mellowed on a lot of things, actually, as I’ve learned that spreading myself too thin with interesting but distracting matters lessens the time I have available for each one of them. I try to limit my attention to fewer but more important things, and work on deeper understandings of each of them.
There are exceptions to this pattern, of course. I accept necessary complexity in aspects of my life that require more of it. I dress in the manner generally referred to as plain, and it adds complexity to my life that clothing myself more simply would avoid. It’s hard to get certain types of clothing in certain places, for example, and often more expensive. But I don’t dress the way I do as a witness to simplicity, I do it as a witness to other things. And living as I do out in the country with a wife and five kids, a four-ton pile of coal for heat, a twenty-four foot hole in the ground for intermittent drinking water, and a four-foot hole in the ground for a toilet, also adds complexities to my life that just living in town would remove. But I do that for other reasons as well.
I consider it distracting to have to relearn the same things over again unnecessarily, if obsolescence or progress renders a satisfactory system unviable. I recognize that my time is limited, and so is the attention that I can afford to devote to mastering duplicate additions to my mental chores. There are things that I want to know, and things that I want to become better at, and things that I want to understand. But there are also lots of intrusions into my sphere of simplicity that I reject out of hand, even if they might make something easier, quicker, or even cheaper. Like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, I believe that I have reached the point where I don’t learn something new without forgetting something that I learned before—I can’t become better at certain things without sacrificing time and mental energy to them that I might want to devote to other things that I think are more important.
I’m not always successful. I once spent most of a day experimenting with an electric fan and plastic airfoils mounted on the tops of toy cars, proving to myself that it was actually possible to sail a boat into the wind in the way my lovely wife patiently explained. I had never really believed it, but now I know it’s true. Could I have done something more spiritually useful to my life that day? Maybe. The problem with simplicity is that sometimes it’s not really obvious what things are actually distractions, and what are thresholds to new ways of looking at something important. There’s lots of things that still continue to clamor for my attention. Gyroscopes (try holding a spinning bicycle wheel by the axle), and mixing colored light, and how music works, and why salmon swim up into little creeks to breed, and the different types of woven textiles. Maybe I’ll have time to figure them out someday, or maybe not.
I choose simplicity, in the end, mostly for the reasons described in my meeting’s Discipline. I choose it because it frees me from distractions, and allows me to spend my energy, time, and thoughts pursuing other aspects of life that I find more important, rather than catering to the ephemera of transient complexity. I spend a lot of my time now thinking about God, and thinking about how other people have thought about God, and trying to get better at thinking about God. At least in the sense that I’m trying to get better at doing the things he wants me to do, and being the kind of person he wants me to be.
And I actually do end up with more time for reflection about God, and trying to understand more of what I’m to do in my life here in that context. By reducing distractions, I do find that I have been able to concentrate more on spiritual issues, and applying them to my life. So it does work, when I let it. But I have a very long way to go.
The problem is that these other various other topics are so interesting. But maybe some of them will turn out to be important to the way I think about God, and need to be added to the short and simple list of things that I pay more attention to.
Did you know that there are only 130 species of ferns in the whole world? Why did God do that? Ferns represent the only major biological group of organisms that a single systematist can ever hope to master in a lifetime. And there’s two species that I know of right down by the creek. I could start right there. Just a few months. How hard could it be?
You know, simplicity just isn’t easy.