This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

King: Chain saws and Earth

During maybe the latest spring since we moved to our current home in 1993, I worked on my chain saw, then riding mower.

Michael A. King

I learned about expertise and limits. I wondered about connections with Planet Earth as some U.S. regions turned too cool, while up where cold belonged it was too warm. I needed the chain saw for trees that had fallen in the high wind of springtime “winter” storms. I needed the mower in case grass ever grew again.

As a boy I ruined many an item by taking it apart. I also learned that if you really attend to nuts and bolts and springs despite a modest theoretical grasp of what does what, you can sometimes get an “I fixed it!” high.

So, the chain saw engine won’t turn. I take spark plug out. Engine turns. Plug back in — freeze. Finally I get it. Frozen by accumulated unburned oil from gas-oil mix. I drip in raw gas. Pull/flush, pull/flush. Thaw. Back together. Roar! Smoke! Fix-it high. Dead. Gas spurts out the bottom. What?

Apart again. After 30 years, rotted gas line. Take even more things apart to attach new line. At last. Roar! Smoke!

Fizzle. What? Apart. Broken electrical wire. Solder. Back together. No roar. No smoke. Gas out the bottom. What?

Apart. Ensuring the gas line is permanently connected requires disassembling the — I think — carburetor. Now so many pieces I don’t remember what a chain saw looks like. Gas line attached. Where do those choke pieces go? Memories of where they belong have faded as badly as my 1981 Greek training.

My dear spouse wonders about priorities but, with remarkable maturity, forbears judgment. She knows her husband hates to let go of old things, especially now that he’s becoming one, and how excited he’ll be if he fixes this old thing.

Another half day goes into turning 50-some pieces back into a chain saw. Roar! Smoke! Run out. Cut, cut, cut limbs. Huge fix-it high.

Time to get the mower ready. Battery down. Charge. Engine turns. Won’t start. Confident after proving chain-saw expertise, I jump the battery. Roar! Smoke! Silence. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I’ve fried the electrical system. I will be the customer fix-it shops love: Could you fix this thing I “fixed”?

Pride shattered, I think about the strange weather that drew me into these triumphs and tribulations. I ponder how limited my expertise is — how I rely on trial and error and vague understandings of how things work.

I think of some 8 billion of us humans bringing this approach to an entire planet.

This makes me more alarmed about the relentless clues Planet Earth gives us that something is wrong. The jetstream and Gulf Stream may be turning erratic. Yet countless ones of us, whose expertise is no greater than mine with chain saws or mowers, are sure we know what’s happening.

Experts as good at their analyses as my shop friend is at his confirm danger signals. Whether or not we believe God gave us dominion over the Earth, we likely have the power to destroy it as our home.

My chain-saw-fixing self hopes people who disagree will accept this before we’re all dead. But then my mower-breaking self says hold on. Have some humility: None of us can fully grasp what’s happening or what to do. Take seriously the possibility that together we all figure this out, or together we die.

Michael A. King is publisher of Cascadia Publishing House and blogs at Kings­view & Co.,

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!