When the Basics Become Bizarre

“When the Roman Empire collapsed, the loss of basic knowledge of how to do ordinary things was immense. The Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins told me that it took western Europeans something like 700 years to relearn how to build a roof as solid as the Romans knew how to build.” Rod Dreher~

When my husband retired from his office job, he leaped into a full-time vocation that he was already doing part-time–roof and chimney repair. And he added a ministry aspect.

When he needs a crew, he goes to a local drug rehab program and recruits workers for the day. A couple of them turned into long-term employees. They arrived with a new outlook and got a new set of skills.

But most of them don’t. After all, not everyone belongs on a roof. Not everyone can traverse a housetop in a mild degree of comfort. And not everyone is willing to do the hot sweaty work required to finish the task at hand.

Some move on to other work. Others go back to the old way of life.

My husband sees two ways of thinking. One accepts responsibility for the past and doesn’t want to return to the old life. Those workers show promise and are willing to learn. They revel in a sense of accomplishment. They find success in fixing something that had been broken.

The other perspective shifts blame for the past. The shifting means they don’t move forward. They realize no great moments of accomplishment. Without accomplishment, there is nothing to pass on. There is no once-broken-now-fixed thing to see, to point to. And no set of skills attained to pass to others. They can only pass along blame.

That is how we forget.

Decades ago, I was among an inaugural class of girls taking woodshop. I still have the finished cedar box I made complete with a crack across the top because I (apparently) hit the hammer too hard nailing the lid on.

The teacher swore he would never teach girls again. I assume he retired shortly thereafter. From then on, girls would work with wood and boys would navigate the formerly female-only domain of the kitchen.

Our more modern outlook did well to invite boys to pursue competence in the kitchen and girls to use tools. We taught skills and children accomplished meals and boxes–even those with cracks.

I read this week of schools eliminating home-economics classes–now named Family and Consumer Science.

And I remember the sense I felt a few years ago at seeing a sack lunch for sale in a grocery store. It’s hard to give that feeling a word. But “loss” comes the closest. Can we no longer even pass along the small accomplishment of packing one’s own lunch?

Think about the exchange so many of us have made. We’ve traded the ability to prepare our own food (let alone grow it ourselves) for going to the store or restaurant, or now to have it delivered.

We have to realize that we are passing along ways to do things. We are showing others how to do things themselves–or how to get others to do things for them. We are always teaching something.

We have to ask if we are losing ourselves in our loss of basic competencies. With such seemingly small losses come even bigger ones hidden under our radar.

Rod Dreher writes about a conversation he had with someone who works with victims of sex trafficking. He calls the conversation “deeply shocking.”

“He said that in his line of work, he hears from fertility doctors — not one fertility doctor, but several — that they are having to teach married couples how to have normal sex. . . . if they want to conceive. These young people have been so saturated in pornography, and have had their imaginations so thoroughly formed by it, that the idea of normal reproductive sex acts are bizarre to them.”

Imagine a world where the idea of having your leaky roof fixed is bizarre. Where the idea of fixing your own sandwich is bizarre. Now imagine the world where the idea of the normal way to make babies happen is bizarre.

That world is becoming our own.


Photo Credit: Paul Head

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have a material connection to the entity I have mentioned–my husband’s roof repair business. I have no material connection to any other entity mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

24 Replies to “When the Basics Become Bizarre”

  1. Wait… what? Couples don’t know how to conceive? Oh. My. Goodness! We live in such a sickly-saturated sex culture today. I am deeply grieved to hear this – deeply grieved. I can’t imagine, nor do I want to, what the future holds as we continue down this perverted rabbit hole. What things like this make me pray is: “Come Lord Jesus.” Sometimes I think God is too patient with us.

  2. Ooh, the end was such a zinger! You are right, Nancy. The world is changing so quickly. It’s important we don’t just chuck away the basics because of convenience or because culture says so.

      1. I agree. I would add budgeting and balancing a checkbook. Some colleges are adding “adulting ” classes during freshman year. As we assimilate more information, we lose something precious.

  3. It is so upsetting that our world is drifting away from God; I pray every day that we can find our way back to Him through our actions!

  4. I once read an article that talked about how many children today do not know where meat comes from. They had no idea that it came from a cow or a chicken. Sadly, it seems so many have have lost touch with aspects of life such as food production and the natural earth.

  5. What a great way to minister to and help people out of their drug addiction. He is a great example of how we should help others.

  6. Wow. Nancy, this is eye-opening. I agree that we have slowly traded away our basic competencies. Growing vegetables and fruit, cooking our own food, packing our own lunches. And now with pornography becoming so widespread, we can’t really expect that something would not be traded for that. Everything that God has given to us and set into His perfect order is being undone. Thank God, one day Jesus will make all things new.

  7. I’m examined the results of the fall of the Roman Empire by examining the art via a Smithsonian course. It wasn’t until Michaelangelo that the ability returned to, once again, carve marble in such a way that it produced the masterpieces we love so dearly. Yet, these skills were developed by the Greeks and then the Romans and filled their public areas more than a thousand years earlier. Society collapsed and then everything with it, as you described. Even basic skills like making and repairing roofs and roadways were lost.

    Your list of what all is far gone, including the way to conceive a baby, is stunning. This is something that we tend to think would be instinctual, and yet our porn-saturated culture is teaching the next generation a perversion of the way God designed sex. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Save us from ourselves.

  8. This is truly troubling when what were once common and natural ways to do life become bizarre. Your husband’s observations about the rehab recruits and 2 distinct perspectives is eye-opening.

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