Thoreau and Construction


Recently, we have had some small successes:

  • One, completing a project that was a part of the Belmont/Hillsboro Tour of Homes.
  • Second, placing second in the Reader’s Poll of the Nashville Scene for Best Builder/Developer.

One of my old friends was complimenting me on the success we have had, and it prompted some thought on my behalf. Here is what I wrote him:

“What do I do with the success we have had, which direction do we go? Is success binding, or is it freeing? For most I think it is the former. A chance to get lazy, to rest on past accomplishments. People fall into this behavior at all stages of success. Just think of a few actors, musicians, politicians that have succumbed to this pitfall.

For some there is a hunger for more success. For me, I still hunger for the simple life. I have it in my head that if I play the game of business well enough, I cannot only change the way construction happens in my area, hence changing people’s lives, but also develop a business plan that can grow on its own.

I dream big for sure, and always have.
As for now I feel I have sacrificed simplicity for sheer work. At the same time when I see masons, framers, workmen in general sweating, struggling to complete a days work I realize the difference between them and me is very little. I wonder if they feel like they have an advocate, someone on their side. Who is caring for the lower class? It is easy to forget about the individual cleaning up for 6.55 an hour. What are their dreams? Do they have any? Or are they numb to life. Like that individual in Plato’s cave, chained to their chair. Who frees them?

When I work to much, which is very typical, the trap is to not think. However, I must think, I must prepare for that battle ahead of all of us. To give hope to the weary. Now before you think I am so pious, I am not, in fact most of my week is just as dull as the next person. But when I stop, there is a hunger to make a difference.

So perhaps that simple life is laying brick by brick. Going home to a family that loves me. But that kind of work is numbing. It is not the simple life. It allows no reflection, for as Thoreau puts it,
“But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book,(10) laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.”

Necessity, to eat and house oneself, those are true necessities. I believe though there are necessities of all people that are never met, the need for hope, the need for life. But what is that need for life? How can one give that to another if one doesn’t know what life is? Perhaps it is the awakening, the hunger that we can give.

I would urge all contractors, all humans, to not just earn money on the backs of those below us, but to find a way to use that influence for the good. Make sure everyone working under you is taken care of. Lets face it to, those under us should in reality be merely beside us. We are all in the same boat. Little separates the brightest from the dullest.

So take these musings for what they are worth. At least acknowledge those that enable you to be where you are. Smile, shake hands, perhaps it would be best to bow. For they are serving you. They are not our servants.




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