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The Test of Time

Sep 10, 2020 | Musings | 0 comments


                 7 min read

I am an old soul. What does that mean exactly? I connect with history, its people, and objects from the past. It’s no wonder I dealt in antiques the whole of my life. I feel good and grounded knowing that something has survived the test of time.

Take, for example, our old weighty black and chrome iron with steam so hot it scorched the wooden board below. It’s weight substantial enough to be used as a weapon to ward off predators!  That old Black and Decker lasted for twenty years. I remember my mother skillfully teaching me how to iron pleats, cuffs, and corduroy.  She paid me twenty-five-cents a-piece to iron my dad’s shirts, and I was happy to do so.  The slick heavy handle felt good in my hand and I felt powerful hitting the steam button and listening to the “Shsssst” sound as the steam blasted through the fabric. If anything went wrong with our iron, mom took it to a small appliance repair shop to be fixed for a few dollars. Never did she consider throwing it away.

Nowadays, if an iron lasts one or two years, consider yourself lucky. No one even thinks to ask why things made in the past outlast things manufactured today. This both worries and saddens me. Today’s world is a world of disposable, fad-based consumerism. It perpetuates the notion that everything is expendable, if you get tired of it or break it, you simply toss it and buy another one. I find this abhorrent on many levels. First of all, the environment. How much can our planet take with over seven billion people throwing away irons, washing machines, refrigerators, computers and particle board furniture every few years?  Second, is reverence.  These practical items we used became part of our family; we took care of them and they took care of us. We had conversations about them and told stories, like how we simply “fist-banged” them to get them running again. But replace them? Never!

We were loyal to our practical things because they were loyal to us.

Finally, these useful items were passed down from generation to generation. Dishes, furniture, family heirlooms and yes, old irons and ironing boards! Our heirs wanted these things because they were dependable and connected to a simpler time when life presented space to breathe and gather for a family meal.  We worked hard, just as we do today, but our hard work was to provide food, shelter, education and family time, not because we wanted or needed more “stuff.”

  My children can tell you I’ve pontificated about this subject for years.  “In my day” I’d say, “You only had one iron, and it survived for years.” Or, “My old GE or Kenmore, lasted twenty years, why can’t they make things that last anymore?”

I can tell you a couple reasons. The manufacturers of these wonderful made-in-the U.S.A. products got together and schemed to make more money by making their own products cheaper. They shipped their manufacturing to China and figured, in order  to sell more product over a lifetime they would benefit by making cheap “throw-away” products. The word is called planned obsolescence. And it’s a dirty word.

Instead of buying one good Kenmore Washer, you ended up buying four or five over a lifetime. This concept may have been good for the manufacturer, but how does it benefit a family trying to save for college, or put food on the table? Perhaps our throw-away society may be the reason it takes two incomes instead of one to raise a family.

Another reason is the invention of electronics. As Silicon Valley invented their electronics, they put them into everything from cars to washer machines and eventually into our homes. They too adhere to planned obsolescence. For example, my old phone, as well as my first apple computer, still works! Great, you say? Yes! But Apple refuses to let me use it because it is not able to receive an “upgrade.” They force me to spend thousands of dollars every few years to buy their products, which they themselves have crushed into obsolescence. Shame on them!

Spiritually speaking, (you knew I’d get here) everything is temporal, meaning life itself, relationships, bad days, the weather, etc. It’s a good spiritual lesson to learn not to cling to earthly or temporal things.

 God teaches this and I know this. But God, unlike our cheap manufactured goods, is not temporal. He is the first, and the last. The Alpha and the Omega. His Word stands the test of time and proves just as powerful today as it did when Jesus roamed the earth healing the sick and lame.  God is an investment worth making. He gives us time to breathe and space to spend with our families and loved ones. He does not profit off us but gives us something that lasts. Something we can pass down through generations and still find valuable. He passes the test of time and helps me feel grounded in a throw-away world.

I may not be able to convince the big manufacturers to follow God’s lead, but I can at least support businesses that produce quality “Made in the U.S.A.” products of lasting value. I want the big manufacturers to know that when you think of others first and produce goods that stand the test of time, you demonstrate integrity. And integrity, as mentioned in the Bible, looks like this:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Phillippians 4:8