I went to bed last night, thinking about the email I’ve been getting lately, concerning my family’s progress as we build a new home in Southern Mississippi.
(Some of that mail is heart-warming, representing encouragements from afar. And, as you can probably imagine, some of it is presented in the form of jeers and taunts, that inform us that we’re doing something strange and extraordinary, that will ultimately end in “horrible failure.”)
I woke up last night, thinking about my Mother.
(No, it wasn’t a “sleep-deprived” jolt, fueled by my son’s teething… it was more in the form of a gentle reminder of my “roots.”)
I was raised by a devoutly Jewish US Marine woman, truly a mother that would strike terror in the hearts of many, but to us, she was that “gentle (not “Gentile”) warrior” that both protected us and tried to poison us with her cooking, all in the same breath! LOL!
(The woman could enlighten any conversation with obscure biblical passages without missing a beat, she could shoot a tick off a cow’s back at 50 paces, and she had a right cross that made Mike Tyson look like a big sissy, but she couldn’t even boil water without having to call the fire department. Oy Vay!)
And although you might think that being a devout Jewess and a US Marine found her in conflict, it wasn’t the case. Mom taught us to believe with a ferocity that fueled our curiosity and expanded our boundaries.
(And, she could kick the crap out of anyone who tried to get in our way!)
In that mantle of protection, our inquiry was firmly founded. Her children grew legs, and then… started to walk among you…
In its purest form, my Rabbi used to say that the “human spirit of inquiry” is indeed a holy thing. According to the renowned 12th century Jewish thinker Maimonides, nothing less than the Biblical commandment to love G-d is fulfilled when a person investigates the world around him/her, and struck by its intricacy and beauty, is filled with awe and gratitude to the Divine.
And our “inquiry” is usually driven by need, right?
This is the case with our family’s journey, one that leads us down a path that will end in a comfortable, affordable home, built out of parts that most would pass by, on the way to the lumber yard.
Our need led us to inquire about alternative materials, in the hopes that we could indeed “afford” to house ourselves, without needing huge outlays of cash (which we don’t have) and without needing a degree in “sub atomic particle physics” to understand.
And as I’ve said, along the way we’ve found some friends (and a few naysayers), all welcomed to give voice to their praise, opinions, (or angst,) in the hopes that this input will reveal new places we can look to, as we make progress.
(Granted some of the suggestions involve “impossible anatomical gyrations,” but alas, there are always hecklers in every crowd, ready to hurl spoiled fruit at the “visionaries.” LOL!)
Suffice to say, some of our newly found tribe members, when reflecting on our “advancement,” however, are not exactly motivated by the Maimonidean quest to gain inspiration through a new glimpse of subtle wisdom that G-d has granted us.
To the contrary, they look to whatever new knowledge we may document as just further justification for denying the “powers that be,” forklifts with which to pull themselves up onto the pedestal of “I told you so…”
Our success will have the potential to lead us to a unified theory of our little place in the universe — one where people live in steel houses that withstand the tantrums of nature, all the while providing their inhabitants with a comfortable, affordable lifestyle, and demonstrate that the human mind can fully grasp the totality of creation, by using ingenuity, need, and inquiry (all in careful measure) and is thus capable of becoming the intellectual master of their own personal conditions, each and every one…
Because I aspire to be one of those who maintains my sense of wonder at the world, and I want to see the purpose and beauty in nature, in all it’s forms, be it heavenly inspired or man-made. Sure, we’ll still be hounded, and even confounded by those who choose to see our journey as fascinating but ultimately meaningless.
I was recently reminded that the builders of the Tower of Babel sought to erect a structure whose top would pierce the very heavens, all the better to assert their independence from the Divine and “make a name for ourselves.” Their plans, of course, were dashed; their arrogance did them in.
I hope… I pray that my family’s journey isn’t met with the same bitter results.
It really isn’t my goal to act like I know everything there is to know about shipping container construction, new construction technologies, or even contemporary construction practices.
In fact, I am one of those who will freely admit that although I know quite a bit, I still have much more to learn. And this “inquiry for knowledge” is fueled by my family’s need for a strong affordable house, that will protect us at a level that by far surpasses the abilities granted by my own back and broad shoulders.
There is an old saying that “When Man Plans, G-d laughs…” In Yiddish, it’s the expression; “Man contemplates, G-d laughs!” (and in Yiddish it actually rhymes). I don’t know if G-d laughs as I stumble through this project. (I’m betting He laughs like he was watching Jeff Dunham and those demented puppets of his!) I certainly don’t laugh; I am sometimes deeply and bitterly disappointed. My thoughts, though, do frequently return to the builders of Babel, and to how, in mankind’s construction of monumental projects, success or failure may ultimately hang on your intentions.
Will our building project, a home built from shipping containers and aircraft hangar components, in fact come to fruition as planned, and allow us to see deeper into our own nature, as we enjoy a new life, lived in hard earned comfort and safety? I suspect that we will be measured by why we’re looking in the first place.
At least it will be entertaining, huh? Admit it, you haven’t laughed this hard in years. But it’s okay, I don’t mind your laughter, as long as you learn something along the way. As long as I can make you think, it’s all good!
(My medication protects me from further psychological harm, so laugh it up!)
And, I may even learn something too. Imagine that!