There are many mechanics in Delhi, New York. They can all repair your car. But, if you go behind the SUNOCO station, you’ll find ENA Motors. It has been there close to 40 years and it is owned by philosopher-mechanic Eric Schwartz.
Here is his story in his own words:
My essence of me is my soul, my Nephesh as they say in Hebrew. The essence of me is my eternal soul.
Q – And, what kind of shape is it in?
Oh, it is perfect. It is pristine. So is yours. The trouble is that our path through this world has sullied it somewhat… somewhat worse than others.
So, we were in Florida. Right, right… so we want to get back to the land. We are both from the Bronx. I mean, the land to us was like Van Cortland Park. The only animal husbandry that I knew about was throwing rocks at pigeons. So, we ended up coming here and we got into the Ag program. I was a typical Jewish kid. We are like modeled from birth to be doctors and lawyers. You know what I mean. So, it was not a real stretch for me to get into Delhi Tech. So, I got into the school and what happened? Oh, we… I was fascinated with the whole thing. To me it was like biology and horticulture. I was always a science head. So, it wasn’t so out of the track. So, I found it fascinating but, I realized that in order to do what we wanted to do we would have to be indentured serfs for the next thirty-five years. And, maybe our grandchildren would be able to get into the...
... because we had no money. Even back then, this is like 1971 or something, the early 70s. Even then, you probably needed like a hundred grand and that was like 1970 hundred grand. You know, we had the proverbial pot to urinate in.
Q – So, this is a hundred grand to set up a farm?
Yeah, yeah you needed collateral. We had none. I had an old Buick and I was working at night at school at the college here as a janitor to get through school. I transferred to auto mechanics because I said, screw this we are not going to get anywhere doing this. It is alright. We want to do this but it is just not going to happen.
Q – This is the farm thing?
Yes, the farm thing. We were going to start with like four pots, you know. And, then work off the porch for a while and then expand from there. It wasn’t… I don’t think so.
Still today, 40 years later I still find it captivating (automobiles). I am still extremely interested in it only because it encompasses so much technology in one object. I mean, you know, I have got to be a welder, an electrician, a computer guy, a plumber… you know. It is very interesting.
Q – What’s the kick?
Well, the kick is the immediate gratification. I mean, it is hard… I like that. I mean not, just physically hard… its intellectually challenging. Not only is it intellectually challenging, the cars… but, the people. I am much better with the cars (laughs).
Q – How are the people challenging?
I mean, you know, people come in here like yourself. Well, you are a little better than most. You are a little mellower and easier to get along with. But, you know, I see people at their worst. You know, they are all freaked out. It depends on the person. I shouldn’t be making a caricature of the bad customer. But, you know, people come in on the whole spectrum of humanity. So, you see wonderful people… I used to say my worse customers were very educated people in the education industry, teachers… things like that.
Q – Why do you think that?
Well, because they had a very narrow view of reality. They were kind of you know, focused on academia or in the theoretical world let’s say. And, what they did is sold diplomas or they were involved in that whole industry and their real payoff is what? Maybe, one of their students in twenty years will grow up and be President of the United States. But, they’ll never know. There is, like a disconnect between what they do and what the payoff is for them. And, I think inevitably the payoff becomes summers off and 73 holidays a year… and, you work five hours a day.
Q – But, for you the payoff is fixing a car?
Yeah, yeah, it is great. Imagine if you have a goal and you could meet your goal. And, the goal was either a success or failure in two hours. So, it is like you always have that… in psychology they call it the cycle, the enjoyment, the pleasure cycle or something. So, it is almost like taking drugs. You take the drug you feel better. You come back to reality and you take the drug again. So, if your work can be that way that is a tremendous, tremendous motivator.
Q- Well, how did you go politically from the left to the right? Tell me about that.
Ah, well, that is easy. That is easier than fixing cars. You know, I was involved with very, very radical people. And, they were all wrong after a while. I mean, history is the great laboratory of ideas. So, after you hit sixty and you look back you can see what works and what did not. So, that is ultimately my criteria for my change. It is that the further I get, the more distance one gets, the more perspective you have. And, you understand that things are not really about the means of production.
Q- So, why does that perspective take you to the right? As opposed to the left?
Oh, because basically… I find the right and I don’t want to sound… and, basically I want to reiterate the point that wise people are in the middle. So, I am not promoting being on the right or the left. I am actually promoting to be integrating both and using it in the middle. Okay? But, I found… let me put it this way… I found left wing reality to be completely idealistic and not workable. And, you can go way past Marx. You can go back to, you know, the Sophists in Greece. It didn’t work in Athens. So, you know what I mean. So, what’s that old expression? The one thing people learn from history is that nobody learns from it. This is what I began to see.
Q- Well, now what about your religious path? What was that like?
That was interesting… a similar kind of transition. I am basically an intellectual so my spirituality is based on that. I not one of these… that feel god is in my soul and I just feel warm all over. No, that is part of it. But, that is not my motivation. Nor is it my strong point. It is a much more cognitive understanding of physics. To me it is interesting speaking to secular people. I find that secular people are really the ones with the closed mind and the lack of education. Because spirituality or at least in Judaism, I should say Judaism because to be perfectly honest with you. And, this will alienate the last four customers we have here. I find Christianity to be a real leave your brain at the door kind of, you know, theology. And, not to diminish any of the good works they do in terms of feeding the hungry and clothing the poor and nurturing you know, god bless them they do a tremendous work… but, theologically or philosophically its brain dead. And, it has given religion a really bad name. Because people associate Judaism, which is my path, with these other monotheistic religions that are completely off the wall. I don’t want to go into Islam. I am not as familiar, you know, with Islam as I am with Christianity. But, what can you say about that that has not been caricatured. So, my own path was really an intellectual one to understand how the world works. It is the same way with fixing cars. I mean I see god in the car because basically everything works through energy. And, if you look at the laws on entropy, you know, if you look at energy… energy cannot be created or destroyed. It is eternal. It is all powerful. It is what animates a rock, a human being, light.
Q- Last question… let’s say sixty years from now, when presumably you are not around. How do you want people to remember you? What do you want on your epitaph?
Oh, this interview…yeah. This interview I have had like 733 times already (laughs). So, there are enough people talking about me somewhere. And, you want to know something funny about your interview? We’ll leave with a physics lesson here.
Q – What?
It is funny. I just thought of this. Basically, everything we do is eternal. The fact that we are having this conversation now goes back to a metaphysical component of reality… is that our voice, our sound waves will never dissipate. Somewhere on Alpha Centuri like thousands of years from now, if they have a sensitive enough receiver, they’ll be able to pick up the conversation. This is science. This is not religion. So, I don’t have to worry about being forgotten. All I need to know is that somewhere in the universe someone will have a radio receiver that is that sensitive… and, they’ll be smart enough to listen to me and not all the bullshit that is going on everywhere else. Okay…(laughs)