And yet another sort of conscientious objection.
This post is prompted by three things: this conversation between Chris Carr and Matty, a recent conversation with my sister about the various hints our father (still in excellent health) has dropped about how he will take his leave, and the death earlier this week and burial tomorrow of my wife’s father after a long, bed-ridden demise.
Let’s start with what I wrote when I first learned about Phil Bolger’s death back in May of 2009, posted in the form of a comment at TheAmericanScene.com in a post about Matt Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul Craft:
This morning brings the startling and sad news that over the weekend boat designer and philosopher (he wouldn’t call himself that, but it’s apt) Phil C. Bolger took his life. I’ve built several of his boats smaller boats, and consider his approach to boat design foundational to my divining how I could make the films I wanted to make, on the slender resources available for such excursions.
Consider your education incomplete if you have not read Instant Boats written by PCB’s longtime collaborator Harold Payson, and Boats with an Open Mind a collection of essays by the man himself. Conservatives should especially appreciate the breadth and depth of PCB’s historical knowledge and his adaptation of “traditional wisdom” to modern concerns and materials. This is one of my favorite passages, from chapter 70, Loose Moose II, a design for a 38 foot plywood square sectioned, live-aboard bluewater passage-maker:
“Staring with the two desks, some more ambitious suggestions crept in, such as a proposed voyage from the Moselle in France to a West Indian Island, via the Rhone, the Mediterranean, and the Canary Islands. We didn’t delude ourselves that a Bolger Box, even a long one, was the best possible vehicle for this enterprise; only that is was capable, that the modesty of the investment advance the plan, and that the box was ideal for the in-port living between passages. The shallow and compact boat could take choice berths not accessible to more conventional cruisers.”
“I don’t have much respect for the architecture of Le Corbusier, but his “machine for living” concept is stimulating if you study, more than he ever did, how people can, should, and do live. If you try to disguise a machine like this, say by raking the ends or breaking the sheer, you produce a box with unconvincing concessions to style that only emphasize that you’re ashamed of it.
“I’ve been thinking that one of these boats might make a surface for a mural painting — say, an arctic seascape on the starboard side and a tropical beach to port. Or a fleet of vessels, or a crowd of people. The long, horizontal shape fits subjects hard to adapt to the usual proportions of a picture frame. The frame itself, the boat’s profile, is suggestive. As a child I was fascinated by the carved and gilded Victorian frames on the painting in my grandfather’s parlor. It’s a healthy exercise to call up from memory the art objects that I enjoyed before I was taught by academic critics to despise them.”
After 9/11 I found myself reading Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire”, and somehow in the combination of reading about hoplite battle tactics and my despair, I adjusted my view on suicide – from seeing it as a personal choice to something more communally oriented. Provocative to the end, PCB has once again invited me to examine my assumptions. Through my grief, I am trying hard to see his last act as yet another of the many of his gifts he left us through his life and his work.
Where death and grief are concerned, 2011 has been a tough year here at Rancho Ryan. We’ve lost my wife’s father, a brother-in-law, and one of her sisters; all with protracted illnesses preceding their deaths. Another of her sisters is gravely ill. My wife’s mother is fading.
In short, we are reeling.
My departed sister-in-law was as warm and vivacious a person as you can imagine, and strong and stubborn enough to go to work right up until the very end.
She stoically endured various painful and depleting “last ditch rolls” (often experimental) on the theory that you should never give up, and even absent hope, perhaps something would be learned that would help someone else.
But at the end, when there was nothing left to try, and her family gathered round, she asked “Am I dying?” and no one could bear to answer her.
And when no one could answer, she began to weep, and she kept weeping until the strength to weep left her body, and two days later she died.
My post on Peace Churches and Social Security taxes was prompted by the fact that one of my employees is Mennonite. Yesterday morning I told him about the Social Security opt-out.
He squared his head, and said, “If you’re going to do that, you’d better have a lot of really close friends.”