This I Believe

Melinda - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on May 4, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: community
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I am sewing a pair of pants.

It’s just the second day of my summer vacation, and I’m already itching to do something, anytime. Feeling adventurous, I decided to venture into the unknown: the late seventies.

When my mother was my age, she sewed most of her wardrobe. She lived in a farming community—no commercial overdoses and spending binges at the mall. My opa (read: grandfather in Dutch) couldn’t afford jeans—my mother made herself a pair. She still has her sewing machine, and I still have my dignity (I’m trying desperately to avoid the television), and so, I am sewing a pair of pants.

I started the project this afternoon, delighted with the idea that I could transform two metres of cloth and a spool of thread in an article of clothing (therefore cheating retailers, land developers, South Asian sweatshops, media influence and manipulative advertising—take that, Man!). Two hours later, I have gained a profound respect for my mother, and the women in the South Asian sweatshops. I am continually pestering my mother for rescue, the sewing machine seems to be possessed by some vindictive superconglomerate retail corporation, and I am starting to realize how completely helpless (and naked) I would be if I were solely responsible for my own attire. My mind begins to explore my incompetancies in the realm of survival. I imagine myself cold, starving, lonely, dirty, sick, and confused, wandering desperately around in the forest, waiting desperately for freak lightning to give me fire (which as I learned from watching Survivor, is the primary goal when dumped on a South Pacific island for television history and Mark Burnett’s personal fortune), scrounging desperately in the brush for anything edible, and hoping desperately for some poor animal to have a cardiac arrest right in front of me. All that desperation would certainly keep me busy. No time to wonder whether I should be in a serious relationship by now (as another of my secondary school friends became engaged this morning), or whether I am indirectly responsible for underprivileged Flint, Michigan teenagers being killed in Iraq (watched Fahrenheit 9/11 last week), or whether religion is more than a societal construction to understand and find purpose in life.

My primeval ponderings ended when I experienced a great rush of relief and gratefulness for the innovations, conveniences, constructions, and communities that shelter me from such a harsh reality. Generations and generations of human survival and ingenuity have placed me in a house where I comfortably cooked myself an omelet for breakfast, discussed politics with my father this morning while reading Maclean’s, and wore my commercially sewn clothing as I sat before a commercially produced sewing machine with material fabricated by machines operated by people who had never seen a sheep. I’m just sewing a pair of pants. I’m not growing grain to feed a sheep to shear it’s wool to card and spin and weave and sew while simultaneously protecting my body and home from the weather and wild animals and growing and foraging for food to cook over a fire for which I gathered the kindling while pregnant and barefoot before a thatched roof over a bed of grass. My lifestyle is based on millenniums of human cooperation, education, and creation. I think I’m independent because I can change a flat tire, complete my own taxes, or sew a pair of pants? Independence is an illusion of a shortsighted man. The mere act of thinking such an abstract thought demands dependence on millions of people, past and present.

And the point of all this?

People need people, and thought is a luxury.

And I am longwinded and easily distracted from sewing.