A few months ago I bought an older house. I knew it would need a bit of work before I could rent it out. As is the case with any old house, it’s turned into even more work than I’d originally thought. Although not part of the original plan, I’ve had to rip out the entire downstairs bathroom: Walls, floor, plumbing, fixtures, and all. And, to access the bathroom plumbing, I had to rip out the kitchen plumbing which is on the other side of the bathroom wall.
|Area formerly known as the bathtub and shower.|
|Water under the subfloor due to leaky bathtub drainpipe (conveniently located under the cast-iron tub).|
|Drain pipe for the bathtub.|
Anyone who owns a home will attest that plumbing problems are the most expensive and stressful. They’re stressful because, unlike many problems, they usually need to be addressed immediately. If your toilet or shower drain is plugged or leaking, you’re not going to wait a few weeks to call someone. This is in part why they’re so expensive to fix.
Plumbers know that you need the problem fixed NOW and as such, when you call them they can pretty much charge whatever they want. In most cases, it’s not like you’re going to call two other plumbers, wait for them to fit you into their schedule just to give you a quote, then pick the one you want. You need your toilet now. Also, plumbers charge an upfront service fee just for showing up (likely to prevent bargain hunters taking up their time)….All this feeds back into the stressfulness of having a plumbing problem. Anyhow, you get the point:
Plumbing problems=baddo baddo.
As a landlord, the majority of my annual expenses are for plumbers. I’m tired of paying plumbers so I’ve decided to learn how to do it. It’s not like I never tried before. I’ve tried to handle plumbing problems several times but it rarely goes well. I always end up with a small leak in one place or another no matter how many times I try to readjust the pipes and fittings.
This time, however, I’ve vowed to learn how to fix household plumbing problems.
At this point you’re probably wondering what the title of this post has to do with anything.
Bear with me. We’re going on an a philosophical ramble about plumbing and the meaning of life…
So, Like, What’s Your Philosophy?
Anytime a philosopher, anywhere in the world, answers the question, “so, what do you do?” the inevitable follow-up is, “so, like, what’s your philosophy?”. I’m going to set aside the fact that to an academic philosopher this is a bit like asking a chemist what their chemistry is. I’ll go, instead, with the colloquial interpretation.
I can’t say I have a coherent life philosophy but aside from a variety of extrinsic factors, I believe succeeding at anything worthwhile requires a substantial exercise of will. In fact, I believe this to be the single most important intrinsic variable. You must be willing to struggle, to persevere–in short–to grind if you wish to achieve anything of significance.
You commit yourself wholly to one end and you don’t deviate. Your goal is to overcome.
Nietzsche was the ultimate grinder. For him, the good is “whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself.” Happiness is “[t]he feeling that power increases–that resistance is overcome.” (The Anti-Christ)
Outwork and out-suffer. When other people quit–don’t.
See the path to every goal as a war of attrition.
Battle of the Kitchen Sink
The kitchen has a double sink. Not only was the P-trap leaking but one sink leaked too. Water had made a small path between the drain fitting and the sink itself. Fixing the sink would require removing the drain fitting.
|A drain fitting.|
This was before I’d made my vow.
The plumber quoted me $320.00.
It’s so easy to say. Especially when it’s someone else who’s suffering to overcome something.
“[t]he formula of our happiness: a Yea, a Nay, a straight line, a goal”?
Consider another view: For Aristotle, habits are central to character formation and the overall quality and nature of our life. Of course, knowing which habits to choose is not always so easy. We criticized the enchanted process-lover because there will be times where she encounters challenges that likely can’t be faced with a smile. Without having practiced tenacity and perseverance she might fail in the face of long-term or extremely demanding challenges.
But the enchanted process-lover has a reply.
By repeatedly practicing to carefully select our emotions as we face challenges we become better at it. So, it is true that the unpracticed ‘lover’ will likely encounter challenges in the face of which they can’t modify or maintain their attitude. But this isn’t true of someone who has a lifetime of practice doing so. If every time you’ve encountered a problem you consciously selected a positive or playful attitude then it will come naturally in a variety of circumstances. You’ll also be able to sustain it over long periods.
This is a key insight from both Plato and Aristotle. There are no individual acts. Every act is an act of creation. You are creating your character. And your character influences future behaviors in response to whatever life throws your way. Actions are parts of a life-long process of character creation (and destruction).
Your behaviors emerge from your character. The arrow points the other direction too: Your behavior influences the nature of your character. And finally, the nature of your character determines the quality of your life.
Plumbing and Living Wisely
The long-term character-forming effects of how I approach a particular challenge are an important consideration for the the nature of one’s life. Ok, but this still doesn’t tell me how I should approach any particular problem or goal. Certainly, not all goals can or should be approached playfully, and even if they could, not all circumstances allow for it. One must also know when to put their head down and grind through a difficult challenge…like a major plumbing project or a dissertation.
Wisdom consists in knowing when to grind, when to love, and when to love to grind.
|Not so simple double-sink P-trap to drain.|
|P-trap to PVC.|
|PVC to drain.|
|Source of the leak.|
|I thought I might just attach a new drain assembly but the threads were all gone…|
|So I cut of the elbow hoping to replace it with a rubber elbow…but this was the inside of the pipe. Pipe’s gotta come out.|
|Which means the bathtub has to come out…|
2 thoughts on “Grinding and Loving: Two Approaches to Installing Plumbing”
I buy and restore old homes, and after several failures began leaving the plumbing to the professionals. I enjoy doing most of the work myself, and I'm handy with sheet rock and concrete, but plumbing is a trade I have not mastered. I also hate paying a plumber, but they are worth the money to get the job done well.
I used to take that approach but I found that the guys in the home depot plumbing dept. are awesome and will walk you through anything. Also, there are a ton of great youtube videos. I was a little concerned doing it myself cuz, like you, I've had failures, but it's been really rewarding to learn to do it. I did have to redo the kitchen sink drain but, now that I know what I'm doing (more or less) it wasn't that hard to make the adjustment.