Thursday, June 12, 2008

Faith Works 6-14-08
Jeff Gill

Things That Aren’t Optional, Are They?

“Would you be interested in the extended warranty?”

You’ve heard that question, I’m sure, and I trust you’ve answered, “Uh, no.”

The big profit generator of recent years in retail has been to invite folks to pay extra for quality and reliability, or at least the guarantee of same.

Some call them service agreements, or a long-term service contract, or maintenance agreements. A prolonged warranty means that if you expect your goods or products to be worth purchasing, you need to pay a bit extra for that benefit. Y’know, for what you thought you were buying in the first place – quality, reliability, and standing behind your product.

You can still get that, but yer gonna pay.

Apparently fatherhood is an optional add-on now. Not that you can’t find fathers here and there, but more and more a father is an extra, almost an inconvenience, for which . . . ok, the analogy breaks down here, since they pay for the privilege of being considered a father under the law. You can do things the old way (dating, marriage, pregnancy, driving your wife to the hospital, fatherhood), but that’s going the way of getting what you pay for up front, instead of being a kind of extended warranty on your kids’ development.

As a dad, I’ve spent a goodly part of the last week driving back and forth to Camp Falling Rock out Rocky Fork way in northeastern Licking County. Summer entrance up top, helping the parking crush down at the “winter entrance” by historic Franklin Lodge, means getting out early and walking down Foxfire Trail to the flag field below Lake Peewee. 475+ kids are a new record for Cub Scout Day Camp (congrats Ric and Angie Eader for an awesome job directing), and with the loss of the Rocky Fork bridge, access is tight, tight, tight.

Coming into camp early, there’s a spot before I get to Falling Rock that has made me start slowing down in awe and delight, before I have press on to get to camp on time. There’s a home that’s being renovated up in Eden Township, and along one end of the ell, after pulling off siding and sheathing and lath and such . . .

It turns out the core of the old house isn’t just old – it’s a log cabin. Looks to me like 1820 or even earlier, yellow poplar logs shaped by broadaxe and square-joined on the corners. The act of fixing up the house has revealed the foundation of the house, its origins, the history.

Strong, solid, stable, the log cabin was there all along, but long unsuspected (I suspect). After the new sheathing and siding, and the passing of a few years, maybe even a change of owners, and the fact of the undergirding structure could be forgotten again.

It’s as we take apart the structure that we have a chance to see the roots, the origins, the reliable sub-text to what has held up the roof and kept out the weather all along.

Recent years and ongoing challenges to the very nature of marriage and family has peeled off boards and yanked siding away to reveal the basic structure beneath.

We step back from the demo work and look at the actual bones of the building and have a chance to ask – What is necessary? What is vital? What makes the core structure?

We have the chance in these rapidly changing days to assess what we think is necessary, having peeled back quite a bit of the fa├žade of marriage and family. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and before we start nailing up new vinyl siding or trim over the top of what is essential, we need to look at the main support beams and structural members, and figure out what needs primary maintenance.

Fathers are close to the center of the institution of family. You may be able to ornament the exterior enough to forget that those beams and rafters are there, but if you are responsible for long-term upkeep, you’d better keep them in mind.

Happy Father’s Day to every dad who’s trying to hold up his end of the deal. There’s a few stresses on the foundation, but the basic design is sound, and will hold up fine with a little preventative care. A new tie here, a fishing trip there, or maybe a little camping, and things will hold together just fine.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a Father’s Day story at knapsack77@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 6-12-08
Jeff Gill

Why A Knapsack?

Howdy!

You may have read one of my columns before, and I’ve written the stray piece or two for the Sentinel, but an introduction seems in order.

I’ve lived in Licking County since 1989 with a sojourn in West Virginia, and resided in Granville since 2004. That makes me a new guy, but with my historical interests, I get to sound like I’ve been around here for ages.

My knapsack represents the odd stuff I pick up as I meander around the terrain of the Land of Legend, and then I pull items out and tell stories about them. The knapsack is not quite entirely virtual, but pixels and links are more and more part of what I lug around.

Six months or so ago a very rude and profane site called Cracked.com (you’ve been warned) ran a very useful piece about “7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable.” This is exactly the kind of bright shiny object I pick up and stuff in my knapsack and bring out later to tell you about, and this summer seems like a good time to pull out this one.

Number one is that we don’t have enough annoying strangers in our lives. Sound crazy? Here’s David Wong’s point in a nutshell: “The more we're able to edit the annoyance out of our lives, the less we're able to handle it.” And we can use technology to edit all kinds of everyday aggravation out of our day – this may not be as good a deal as you might think.

Two: We don’t have enough annoying friends, either. No, really. Older folks grew up in towns they had to go fight Hitler to get out of; lacking Hitler, you had to learn to get along with some real hard cases (not to say head cases).

Three and Four are about texting and e-mail, and the fact that they are forms of communication, but just barely. If anthropologists can tell us that 93 percent of a statement’s impact is communicated non-verbally, no wonder we get so many misunderstandings with virtual comm. 7% doesn’t give us much margin for error.

Five has to do with the fact that we handle criticism poorly, but can dish it out invisibly, behind masks and aliases, instantly and around the world. Six speaks to the “Outrage Machine,” which is a whole column in itself .

And Seven addresses why we “feel worthless,” suggesting that it’s “because we actually are worth less. There's one advantage to having mostly online friends, and it's one that nobody ever talks about: They demand less from you.”

We’re working on building a new Granville in the middle of the olde village, a smaller place where folks knew each other face to face, over the butcher’s block and around the blacksmith’s forge. We want those vital connections, but we want out wi-fi, too.

My plan is to keep picking up those pieces of the older way of being, and keep looking for ways to fit them into the mosaic of a diverse, new, but tradition rich Granville. Hope you’ll enjoy puzzling along the path with me!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at knapsack77@gmail.com.