Friday, February 15, 2008

the philosophy of building. . . .

ah! There's a huge title for you!

And my little academic [and legal] soul immediately screams to limit it. . . . there's no way I can even scratch the surface of all the topics that come to mind when I read that title.

OK. So a "limited philosophy of building". "Selected snippets of thoughts about building"? "What I'm learning as we build". . . .

How about that? Better?

This morning, having taken some time to get rid of the slide show jumble of 100 plus photos - randomly projected on the sidebar - I discovered that I could post individual pictures with captions. So I went about selecting some milestone pictures and put them up. In the process, I came to read the "About Me" purpose statement again:
Philosophical, practical and aesthetical considerations of making a home and haven in the woods . . .
I realize I have not done much - if anything - by way of approaching this process philosophically.

Oh sure, there was the bit about Thoreau, and his musings on the importance of building one's own home to the human person. He questioned our acceptance of a division of labour where others build for us. We might just as well hire others to think for us, he quipped.

But other than that, I haven't really gotten into much philosophy during this process.

Much of that might be due to the immediate gratification of taking and posting pictures or the converse frustration over not much new to see. I have two things I want to bring up today, though, before I head to the greenwood with every expectation of seeing the roof placed on the tower as well as trusses on the guesthouse. [or, conversely, experiencing the frustration of NOT seeing the promised roof and trusses. . . .]

First, the continuation of the idea I presented by Thoreau - and the division of labour. Second - but related to the first - the insistence of being involved in the actual construction, which means "conflict".

Yesterday at the greenwood was the first time I had met the new crew, and at first I felt a bit awkward. All these men - whom I'd never seen in my life - working on our house. My inclination was to stand off to the side and stay out of the way. Who was I to interrupt them? They wouldn't want to be bothered meeting me. . . . Or perhaps even another - in my opinion worse - motivation: why would I wish to bother myself, meeting them?

Here's the thought I acted on, however: I walked up and started introducing myself. These men are building our house, and I refuse to have nameless men working on my behalf. Neither, however, will I accede to the impersonal situation of men working for a nameless "owner". . . .

Like it or not, we are building this house together.

That leads to the second thing I wanted to talk about: conflict. There have been conflicts in the course of constructing this house. We've had conflict with the architect; conflict with the engineer; conflict with our builder; conflict with Joe-carpenter; and I'm sure we will continue to have conflict, where what we expected has not matched what Tom-builder expected - let's say - or what the weather had in store for us.

Most recently, we've been working through questions about the roof. Tom-builder has known all along that the roof would probably be the biggest challenge of this house. I don't think he bargained for all he's gotten, though, and I can't help but feel badly about some of the problems he's experiencing.

At the same time, there are certain issues we were counting on - like roof rakes and other details - that are threatening to be swept aside in the name of utility and ease of installation given all the other problems. I am learning a lot about partnership and working together as a result of these conflicts. You see, I tend to cave rather easily, because I hate to 'make trouble'. The king is considerably more tenacious - oriented as he is towards what's "right". It's been so cool to see how we can balance one another.

For example, I really am happy that he stepped up and insisted on the roof rakes that are - as we speak - causing a bit of a rebuild at the front of the house. But there have been other issues where we have been able to say "Fine. We really don't need to have that, since it's causing such a lot of trouble."

If there's one thing that we can say when this whole project is finished, I pray that it will be that we worked well together. All of us. Not just us, the "owners", or him - Tom-builder - or them, the "workers".

ALL of us.

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