What is a stand? From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a frame on or in which something may be placed for support”. It’s not a rhetorical question. The second question might be, what good is a stand that won’t stand? I should know, because I picked up the shop stand on the roadside. It was there waiting with a “FREE” sign, for some eager person like myself, to take home and give it a second life. To buy a new stand costs about a hundred dollars, so I took it home because I have a shop and I can use a stand.
Except that.. when I went to put a top on the stand I found it to be wobbly. It racked noticeably and I wondered if under the weight of some piece of heavy machinery, it might buckle. There was a reason for this. The stand had been downgraded materially to save on costs. It’s kind of like the cereal box that looks full face on but when you turn it sideways, is only about an inch thick. This is called shrink-flation. It means that they increase profits by giving you less product.
The metal on this shop stand was almost paper-thin. A close-up examination revealed it had already buckled in one of its corners and was then bent back in place. The metal was fatigued and looked like it would break if stressed a second time. The man who originally put it on the curb likely cursed the manufacturer of this abomination and cut his losses. Of course, the worst time to find out any tool is a piece of junk, is AFTER you have purchased it. It brings to mind Benjamin Franklin’s sage advice.. “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” I will be doing what the first man did - putting this on the curb. Those who brought this inferior product to market were wasting their materials and my time.
Canada’s largest furniture manufacturer recently complained that they cannot compete with the price of things coming in from China. The domestic cost of wood alone would be more than the finished item. We also had some experience with furniture out of China. It was a woven chair that looked quite handsome when we ordered it, but when it arrived it was cracked full on down through the entire structure. Someone had been VERY careless in transport, as can happen with something that is premised on being cheap and fast with little profit built into it. People cease to care.
Cheap and fast. That’s a big problem. It might be bigger if people everywhere ceased to care all the time. When it comes to the quality, there are many things that look the part, but turn out to be junk.
We have long arrived at a point where we depend on cheap goods out of China. It’s customary in some university towns, that the student furniture ends up on the curb once the academic year is done. It was bought for the moment and was never intended to last. The coup de grace is when these items suffer one rainfall. It’s not well made. It is intended to serve only for a season and then be replaced. Now that’s enough to make you scratch your head. Buying the same product twice actually makes a thing more expensive.
It’s not just the world of things. It’s also about how time is spent. It’s the question of worth. We live in a culture where the idea of “fun” is held as the highest good. We are supposed to have a lot of it. Meanwhile nobody who binge watches an entire season of Netflix wonders if it is time well spent. You might just say that we are merely passing time, not knowing quite what to do with ourselves, in a world of inferior things that are not built to last.
All of this weighs on the human psyche… the whole question of what we lean on and what is solid. I know they are not teaching the idea of resilience to kids anymore. The days of Keep Calm and Carry On are long gone. Now we have trigger warnings and an abundance of “experts” who nurse our frail imaginings. It makes me think of Pauls’ advice to Timothy about sound doctrine, the solid base that should undergird living. He said “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but shall seek teachers to tickle their itching ears; they shall turn away from the truth, and turn to fables.”
Human beings, for all their power to think, are sometimes remarkably distracted. Shallow and unhealthy emotions are sure to follow. No wonder we have a mental health crisis, especially among youth. We feed them junk food and expect them to be healthy. It’s a good thing to think about what life is for, to ponder it deeply and to find answers that are worthwhile and lasting.
It comes back to the basics. What good is a stand that won’t stand? It’s a question that I don’t really have an answer for.