We have a clothesline made of 4×4 posts. When we first installed it, we used little metal contraptions with little socket for the post and a long spike underneath. A couple of inches of socket and some screws are not strong enough and don’t have enough leverage to keep a tall 4×4 post upright, especially when it’s holding four lines of wet laundry in the wind. So eventually Mark pulled out the metal thingies and did the harder and longer work of digging post holes, mixing concrete, and setting the posts again.
Why the metal things to begin with? Partly because it would be less work, and mostly because they could be removed relatively easily — in case we wanted to take the clothesline down in the winter, or move it somewhere else if the first location turned out to be a poor choice.
Keeping options open means not being able to commit to much, and not being able to get much from anything. Choosing is a form of stability — a commitment to a place, to a project, to a partner, to a parish, to be fully present there. I have a hard time being fully present; I am often distracted by another conversation nearby, the other items on my to-do list, other ways to do the thing I am trying to do, fears of making the wrong choice, etc. I have more often considered the costs of commitment than the benefits.
Our clothesline is so much stronger now. The posts don’t wobble. They remain straight and secure even when the lines are loaded. It’s stuck where it is now — digging out that concrete would be a lot more work than putting it in was. I’m less bothered by this permanence, this reduction of options, than I thought I would be.
If I hadn’t written this blog post, I would sneer at it; it’s such a preachy little devotional piece, finding a spiritual application in some ordinary object. Words, and the arrangement and offering of words — pesky, puzzling things.