IVP - Strangely Dim - Dirt Cheap

February 27, 2004

Dirt Cheap

by David A. Zimmerman

Last year I bought air, water and dirt in one weekend. Don't judge me--I had my reasons. I might even have bought fire if I could have found a place to sell me some.

You know that your culture has tread onto supremely consumerist ground when you can purchase primal elements. I mean, really, try not to see dirt or water throughout the course of a day. And air is literally in the air we breathe. It's also in the hardware store and the yellow pages; in some places it's bottled per serving. But what does it say about me that I actually paid for the basic building blocks of life?

In my defense, I bought air because I had a flat tire, and the buckets of air freely available to me at any given moment aren't quite pressurized enough to fill the tire--at least not in the time frame I was willing to invest.

Water and dirt are slightly less defensible. My wife and I buy bottled water because we don't like the "taste" of the water out of the tap. The purchased water is allegedly bottled from sources uncorrupted by the evils of congested city life, which is funny, since it's overwhelmingly cityfolk who buy it.

That being said, I imagine I still have a sympathetic audience. Bottled water sells like hotcakes, and though my wife and I buy a lot of it, we surely don't buy all of it. And anyone concerned about their tire pressure will forgive me for paying good money for air. But dirt?

Again, I'll offer my meager defense. I had a gigantic hole in my backyard, the former site of an above-ground pool I had recently sold. As much as I hated the pool, once it was gone I had the hole to contend with.

A contractor had mounded a giant hill of dirt a mile from my house and offered it free to whoever would come take it, and I did try to take him up on the offer. But that dirt was compacted so tightly that I could hardly break the surface with my shovel. Not enough time at the gym, I suppose.

Again, I had no desire to set aside the time it would take to get what I needed from that pile, so after a quick cost-benefit analysis, I bought some beautiful loose dirt from a materials provider. They sell rocks too, by the way. In the end, I paid more for the dirt than I was paid for the pool. But I'm happy, and that's all that really matters, isn't it?

I've found since that I love to stand on the supremely consumerist ground in my backyard, sipping some cool, pure water and enjoying my dirt. I go cheap on the air though--I don't need that kind of pressure.

So whoever said that money can't buy everything should spend an afternoon in my backyard. With money I bought air, water, dirt and happiness. Still, I'll probably be happy only so long with that bare patch of dirt in my yard. Eventually we'll do some landscaping, once we've saved up enough money to buy some rocks.

Check out my secret identity at www.ivpress.com.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at February 27, 2004 9:11 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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