Communion Of Dreams


Weighty matters.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I try and catch NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday regularly. This morning’s show was hosted by John Ydstie, and had a very nice three minute meditation titled Reflecting on a Past Generation which dealt with the differences between his life and his father-in-law’s, as measured in physical weight and strength. You should listen to it, but the main thrust of the piece is how Ydstie’s FIL was a man of the mechanical age, used to dealing with tools and metal and machines, whereas Ydstie is used to working with computers and electronic equipment which is becoming increasingly light weight, almost immaterial.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last weekend, as part of my preparations for tackling in earnest the big conservation job for the seminary, I got a large fireproof safe. I needed something much larger than my little cabinet to safely secure the many books I will have here at any given time. And about the most cost-effective solution to this need was a commercial gun safe, the sort of thing you see in sporting goods stores and gun shops all around the country.

So, since a local retailer was having a big Holiday sale, I went and bought a safe. It’s 60 inches tall, 30 inches wide, and 24 inches deep. And it weighs 600 pounds.

And the retailer doesn’t offer any kind of delivery and set-up.

“Liability issues,” explained the salesman when I asked. “But the guys out at the loading dock will help get it loaded into your truck or trailer.”

Gee, thanks.

So I went and rented a low-to the ground trailer sufficiently strong for hauling a 600 pound safe (I have a little trailer which wouldn’t be suitable). And an appliance dolly. And went and got the safe.

When I showed up at the loading dock and said I needed to pick up a safe, people scattered. The poor bastard I handed the paperwork to sighed, then disappeared into the warehouse. He returned a few minutes later with some help and my safe, mounted on its own little wooden pallet and boxed up. The four guys who loaded it into my trailer used a little cargo-loader, and were still grunting and cursing. I mostly stayed out of their way and let them do the job the way they wanted. Liability issues, you know.

I drove the couple miles home, and parked. And with a little (but critical) help from my good lady wife, it took just a half an hour and a bit of effort to get the safe in the house and settled where I wanted it. Yes, it was difficult, and I wouldn’t really want to tackle moving anything larger essentially on my own. But using some intelligence, an understanding of balance, and the right tool for the job I was able to move the 600 pound mass of metal with relative ease. And it made me feel damned good about my flabby own self.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

In contrast, the most difficult things I have ever done don’t really have a ‘weight’ to them. Communion of Dreams took me years of hard work to write and rewrite (multiple times), and yet is nothing more than phantasm, able to fly through the internet and be read by thousands. There are no physical copies to be bought, shared with a friend, lugged around and cherished or dropped disgustedly into a recycle bin. It is just electrons, little packets of yes and no.

And these past years of being a care provider, how do I weigh them (other than the additional fat I carry around from lack of proper exercise and too little sleep)? I suppose that I could count up all the times I have had to pick up my MIL, transfer her between chair and toilet, or lay her down gently on her bed. But even in this, things tend towards the immaterial, as she slowly loses weight along with her memories of this life. And soon, she will be no more than a body to be removed, carried one last time by others sent by the funeral home.

How do you weigh a life?

Jim Downey


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

One weighs a life by how, and how much, it touches or affects others, in my opinion. (“Other” being broadly defined.)

Whether that effect is positive or negative, and to what intensity or degree… that is another nuance of such measure.

Comment by Ann

[...] June 20, 2010, 7:45 am Filed under: Book Conservation,Guns,Humor A long time back I wrote about getting my big safe, to keep the rare books secure, as well as my guns. Which has led to some [...]

Pingback by Guess where? « Communion Of Dreams

[...] While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on December 1, 2007. [...]

Pingback by Looking back: Weighty matters. « Communion Of Dreams




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