Saturday, September 8, 2012

Benzon’s Law of the Driver’s Seat

It’s simple, really:
If you want to know what it’s like to drive a car, you’ve got to sit in the driver’s seat and drive it.
That’s particularly true if you drive s stick-shift—remember them? To watch it, there’s nothing to depressing the clutch pedal and using the gear shift. But to actually do it, that’s another thing. The gear shift is easy, but getting a feel for the clutch pedal, that takes a little time, and attention. And putting the car in gear when you’re starting on an upgrade, yowsa! When I first started on the stick shift I thought it was impossible. Now, nothing to it.

You can’t learn that from the back seat or the passenger’s seat and you can’t learn it from reading a book. You have to sit in the seat and work the clutch while coordinating with the gear shift.

It’s all like that, all the skills of driving a car. You have to do them to, well, be able to do them. Vicarious experience doesn’t cut it.

* * * * *

And everything’s like that, everything.

Take my friend Jerry. He’s Old School, doesn’t really use this new-fangled internet. But he’d been trying to sell people on a venture that made use of the internet. He knew the internet was important, so it was part of the product and thus part of the sales pitch. But the pitch always went flat, was a little off. Why? Because Jerry hadn’t spent enough time in the internet driver’s seat. Cruising the web simply wasn’t in his blood. It’s not in anyone’s blood, but it migrates there after a couple hundred hours of active online work.

Or take me and gardens. If you’d told me six months ago that I’d become a gardener I’d have said no way, get outa’ here. But now, well, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a gardener, but I have a different kind of understanding of gardening than I had six months ago. I know what it means to take care of plants, to nurture them. I know it because I’ve been doing it, and will continue to do so.

Now, I’ve known about community gardens for years, way longer than I’ve been involved in one. And I’ve read about their importance. And I believed what I read. But, still, the message didn’t really sink in until I’d been tending a garden for a couple of months and worked and talked with others doing it as well.

I hadn’t been in the driver’s seat, driving the garden. Now I have. Now I see and experience gardens in a different way. Now I have no trouble seeing how the proliferation of community gardens is very important, how it has the potential for being a major driver in social change.

The driver’s seat, that’s where it’s at.

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