Guest Essay: Iron Sharpens Iron   (November 14, 2009)

We feature a new essay by author Chris Sullins, "Iron Sharpens Iron".

Chris Sullins, who recently published his Strategic Action Thriller Operation SERF, finally found time to compose a new essay. The long drought of new Readers Journal essays has finally been broken--thank you, Chris.

Iron Sharpens Iron by Chris Sullins

I have to admit I’m one of those people who make mental notes of who is doing what as they drive through the neighborhood. It’s not that I know the people and am looking for some kind of juicy gossip to pass along in a later conversation with an interested third party. I often keep most of this seemingly superfluous data inside of my own head unless I bring it up as comment to an immediate family member.

Most people really wouldn’t care about how much wood the Smiths have stacked up, how many people the Browns have hunting on their land, or that the house the Jones family moved away from still has a for sale sign out front a year later. For the most part this activity of storing and recalling my real life observations is only a form of mental exercise. Like running and weightlifting for my physical body, this is a simple way to keep my episodic memory in shape through regular practice.

As with most data there can be consequences with the unintended release and reinterpretation of it by other people. This happened over the summer when one of my children saw one of our neighbors and commented out loud “Mow to live, live to mow.” I asked what she meant by that and she replied “That’s what you said to mommy the last time you saw that person mowing.” This reply was enough to cue my memory of a conversation I had with my wife a few weeks earlier.

I recalled I had seen this person cutting his grass at least twice a week over the summer and that even on rainy cloud-filled days the underground sprinkler system was watering his lawn twice per day. I had said to my wife that this person would only have to mow once per week “at most” if he reduced watering his lawn to no more than every other day. I also noted the summer weather had been unusually cool and rainy compared to the previous decades I remembered. In the summer of 2009 the local vegetation had done well and presented beautiful shades of green over the entire summer given only our cloud-based precipitation.

I had stated to my wife this neighbor wasn’t the only person who did the extra watering and mowing in our area. I had noticed other nearby homes had sprinklers running each day. A similar ritual followed at least twice per week as someone would ride atop a lawnmower as the sun set in the cool evening. I said something to the effect that these people spent all their leisure time on their lawn mowers and added “They mow to live, live to mow.”

I expressed my observation that the grass in the yards of the recently abandoned and defaulted-back-to-the-bank homes only grew enough to require cutting once every two weeks, were never watered and didn’t turn brown once the entire summer. I wondered out loud to my wife if the people who were watering daily and mowing twice per week would still be doing so if they paid for water by the gallon of if the price of gasoline had remained as high as it had been in the summer of 2008.

As with most of our conversations regarding my innocuous data collection, my wife nodded a few times and commented on a point she agreed with in this case: gasoline was indeed expensive last summer. Much to the benefit of our continued marital bliss that day, I had avoided bringing up anything to do with politics or religion. For the reader I’ll leave my tangential thoughts on the attraction of opposites and how to balance the extreme difference in gravity between the human male and female for a later essay.

Readers of my earlier essays are familiar with my tendency to make personal observations peppered with some historical asides before skipping over to address current global concepts which currently affect us all. Like a common law couple, war and economics are inseparable partners on the world stage and I have no problem being one of the many political paparazzi who follow them. During this pursuit I often try to illuminate some sort of unintended consequences of mankind’s artificial systems.

Read the complete essay.

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