September 29th, 2010

The Tao and the Ice Maker

Two things about me: 1) i am technophobic in the extreme, and 2) i accept philosophical Taoism as the nearest thing to truth my poor mind is able to comprehend.

For the Taoist, the way things are is the way they are, we can only take an appropriate attitude which is one of detachment, seeing the oneness of it all and seeing the non-being in being and vice versa, i.e. seeing beyond being and non-being, between like and don't like..  A Taoist does not let little things bother him, and everything is "little" from some perspective.

Friday the ice maker started to malfunction.  It quit making and/or dispensing ice.

Twelve years ago, when Dianne's health began to fail, we bought a high quality, expensive, refrigerator with an ice maker.  Dianne suffered from dryness and shaved ice became both a delicacy and a necessity for her.  Even expensive things wear out.  But i don't like buying things (except maybe books), i don't like calling repair people, and i certainly don't like trying to fix things.

I don't like that i am technophobic.  I live in a world where technology is everywhere, and most people, including most people my age, take that as a matter of fact and deal with it as such.  Many years ago, i read Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,  from which i learned little about motorcycles and even less about zen.  I did "learn" something about practical detachment and taking on problems when they are still small.  The Buddha, i still remember, can dwell in the  wrench as in the lotus blossom.

The mechanisms of the ice maker seemed, as individual subsystems, to function properly.  Water was flowing into tray and shutting off when full.  The water was freezing in the tray, and in due time (though it seemed to take forever), ice was dumped into the semi-circular chunks.  The chunks were separated by a large grinder attached to a (functioning) motor inside the wall of the freezer. a baffle was then supposed to divert the chunks into either of two slots, one of which would break the chunks into smaller pieces.  Everything worked fine but no ice was coming out, either shaved or in "cubes"

The "least evil"  of the unattractive options was to try to fix the problem myself.  Since each subsystem seemed to work okay, probably the only thing i needed to do was disconnect the bin.  Chunks of ice sometimes lodge behind the bin, pushing it forward and pulling it away from the motor.  I knew this from previous experience, the owner's manual being long gone. 

There is a simple principle of physics (or is it chemistry?) that i seem to have ignored.  Water not only freezes into ice, it also freezes to ice, and it freezes to plastic and it bonds ice to plastic.  When ice is frozen to plastic, a plastic ice machine will not dispense ice.
It took me all weekend to figure this out.

My non-detachment from Dianne's ice maker was like a rich man's attachment to a falling stock market.  I was obsessed with it, lost sleep over it.  That ice machine stayed in my head until it nearly froze my brain.

The icemaker needs a few more hours to prove itself, but it appears that a thorough drying of the parts was what was needed.  Success was achieved and i hardly can take any credit.; but a lesson about my inability to detach has been reinforced.  If i had cared less, i might have done more.  Drying the parts would have been obvious had i been thinking about the process rather than the goal.

One of my favorite stories is the ox butchering story in the Chuang Tzu,   One must learn carefully and then unlearn carefully so that it is not me, but the spirit within me, which is doing the work.