Vermont: The Matter of an Old Barn
Neglect also has the advantage of suspending an awkward question that lurks behind the matter of the barn’s disposition: not only What is to become of this barn? but also What ought to become of it? The issue goes beyond cost and convenience. It promptly moves into deeper waters. Murky, turbulent waters. Philosophical waters. A well-considered conservatism would seem to uphold two principles that aren’t always compatible: preservation and practice.
Preserving the barn would be, for me, primarily a gesture of respect for the past. Now, respect for the past is part of the mindset of every thoughtful person, and it implies a measure of susceptibility to the claims of whatever is old, tried, well-used. That susceptibility I admit to–indeed, I wouldn’t be without it. But you can take it too far. At the end of the day, I’m not a farmer. I haven’t much use for a barn. Having to rank preservation and practice in a real case, in a matter of your own, shows you what’s important to you. Nobody says you have to like what you see.
What is to become of this barn? What ought to become of it? To the latter question I don’t have an answer, but to the first the answer is clear. In the end, time runs the show, because in a manner of speaking, it is the show. For all its long endurance, my barn won’t stand forever. In fact, as I look at it today, I’m with my late advisor: I don’t see how the thing can make it through the coming winter. I wouldn’t bet against it, though.