“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again”
South African author
In a comment made about one of my recent posts, a blogger friend made reference to “our throw away culture.” In today’s world, our world, this has indeed become a reality. As costs are squeezed out of parts and products, so is the value. Repairing something is detrimental to replacing it. If you don’t believe me, ask any cobbler, if you can find one. I suspect soon, with the advent of electric cars, the Meineke man won’t be far behind him and, a recent article spoke to the decline in the sale of wristwatches.
Technology can be a good thing, and if you can replace something more cheaply then fixing it, or develop a viable alternative, so be it. It is a win, win, for both you and the manufacturer who gets to sell you another one. Maybe not so much for the environmentalist however.
But I think this rationale goes beyond physical products. I think it tends to permeate our whole perspective. Things seem much more temporary and/or superficial today. Facebook, Twitter, and others have created a whole new genre called “friends”, ironically, most of whom we don’t even know. As our culture has evolved, it has loosened the thread that used to bind “neighborhoods”. The physical link between us has been stretched and ultimately broken.
I guess this is why, upon seeing a random act of kindness, we notice. We admire the person or persons that are fixing something. Recognizing that everyone is someone. Taking the time to repair the link. Stepping outside of themselves.
Being the inherent optimist that I am, I choose to believe that this “fix it” gene dwells within most of us. We see a situation gone bad, and internalize it, silently mulling over the available alternatives. What we do, or don’t do, is what makes us who we are. As a child, blaming someone else for your indiscretions, i.e. “he made me do it”, was an easy fix. Unfortunately, one that we subconsciously tend to fall back on into adulthood. I believe that each of us acts as we do because we made that choice. Why you are you, on the other hand, is as a result of external influences and our environment. They are what drives our choices.
I was brought up in a generation where things were not as disposable as they are today. The knees of our pants were patched. Our shoes were resoled (and often passed down to the next sibling in line). Radios had tubes that were replaced. I remember my dad putting new wringers on my mom’s washer and when I got a paper route, he built me a cart out of old wooden boxes and the wheels and axle off of an old wagon. To this day I struggle to deal with throwing things away. My first inclination is to see if I can fix it.
I think there is still a value in that. Especially in relationships, be they business or personal. I had a boss that used to say “no matter how many new customers we gain, our business is only as good as the old customers we keep”. Unlike material things, relationships are still made out of the same cloth they always were and are still worth fixing. Much too valuable to be discarded.
Originally posted Aug 2014