The real take away from the wood stove is that it represents one more step in the direction of self-reliance. We can produce our own firewood. A year ago we couldn’t. It’s a baby step perhaps, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Self-reliance means different things to different people. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s voice on the subject, due to his well-known essay aptly named Self Reliance, is perhaps the most famous. Emerson’s take on self-reliance is that it is essentially laying claim to your own individuality over against the pressure to conform to convention. In other words, being true to yourself.
My own take on self-reliance is a bit different. Self-reliance for me is more about living off the land, or coming as close to it as you can.
C.S. Lewis was downright prophetic when it comes to my take on self-reliance. In The Abolition of Man, he wrote that we moderns-come-of-age have deluded ourselves, with irony so extreme that the Fates must be laughing, that we have conquered nature.
In point of fact we haven’t conquered nature. Rather, a very few elites have conquered certain aspects of nature. They in turn mediate that conquest to corporations who mediate it to us in the form of products and services – products and services that then dictate the ways and means of our lives; that in the end control us. Look no farther than your cell phone for evidence of this.
We haven’t conquered nature. Just the opposite, we have become increasingly defenseless before it. Our delusion that we’ve conquered nature, Lewis predicted, will ultimately give way to nature’s conquest of us. The antidote to this is self-reliance.
But it goes deeper than preparing to survive a coming reckoning. In the end we are all children of nature, but per Wordsworth, “Little we see in nature that is ours.” We have divorced ourselves from the very ground of our being.
Producing your own firewood, growing your own food, stewarding your own land, co-existing with animals, being alive to each day and each season… It feels like how we were meant to live. And it’s biblical. It’s The Garden of Eden vs. The Tower of Babel.
All this the wood stove taught me.