Skip to main content
New patients please call 541-535-5082
Book Appointment
New patients please call 541-535-5082

Built to Last

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

One of my best friends from college used to have a Volkswagen bus.  He would spend hours tinkering with his engine in the driveway of the house we rented with some friends.  He wasn’t an expert mechanic, but he found great joy in figuring things out.  It was a sort of puzzle that led to a lot of satisfaction when he got his van working just right.  There were a lot of amateur mechanics in the neighborhood who liked to tinker on weekends.  Most of the cars were older, simpler rides.  They were quite different from the complex, computer centered vehicles of today.  They were made to be worked on by regular folks, who had a little training and a willingness to fumble through the process. As technology has advanced, it has become more difficult to work on cars.  Gone are the days when most vehicles were serviceable without a lot of expensive diagnostic machines and specialized parts. While the vehicles of today can offer more comfort and bells and whistles, I feel that we have lost something as we have made the move away from the automotive simplicity of the past.  

In a way, it is similar to the idea of planned obsolescence.  This is the idea that things are purposely built to break or age quickly out of their usefulness.  Companies use planned obsolescence as a way to ensure that customers are required to purchase new items sooner.  If a product wears out more quickly, customers need to replace items more often, generating more business and profits.  The corporations and their shareholders benefit, while the consumers and the environment pay the cost.  It can feel so frustrating when you want to fix something that has broken, only to find that no one makes replacement parts.  I experienced this last month when I tried to replace a lightbulb in an outdoor light at my office.  I was looking for a way to open the fixture, but was confused to find that there was no way in.  It turns out, the fixture itself is disposable.  When the LED light inside burns out, you must replace the entire plastic fixture. 

This approach seems to be spilling into our collective beliefs about many things.  While we used to value consistency and serviceability, we now increasingly have become a society that builds things to be disposable.  We use things for a while and then replace them with the newest model.  This is true with cars and appliances, as well as with relationships and work.  It used to be more common to stay in the same community for much of life, to maintain lasting friendships, to stay with a job for many years, and to nurture lasting marriages or partnerships.  All of these have become less common over time.  Just as it is increasingly common for people to throw away things when they no longer work the way that they would like, we have grown more accustomed to casting off relationships when things become challenging.  When we place less value on the longevity of things, we tend to also see less value in working the process to maintain and improve our connections with other people.  The truth is, many parts of this human experience take a lot of work.  We want things to feel easy and remarkable; to be in a perpetual honeymoon stage.  One thing that is certain in life is that things need tending to.  They go awry and need mending.  The more we believe otherwise, the more likely we are to toss things out, or turn away when we are met with resistance or challenge.  

My friend eventually got rid of his old VW. He grew tired of spending his days off searching for parts that were increasingly harder to find.  He replaced it with a used truck that he kept for a few hundred thousand more miles.  To this day, he continues to value things that are built to last.  I suppose that is why we are still friends after all of these years.