Sunday, 1 July 2012


Today we are halfway through the year.

When I began on this year of pruning out possessions, giving away 366 things, I didn’t expect so many interior changes.

At this point, my mind is drawn ever back to relationship with:
Silence
Money
Electricity
Solitude
Immediacy

Silence has a connection in my mind with Gelassenheit and humility, with waiting: as the Tao says, “Who can wait until muddy water becomes clear?”

Money – well, I have gone through my accounts of the last few months, and am shocked, really shocked, by the amount of money I spend, and how pointlessly and easily.  I am thinking through my relationship with money, and how to sit more lightly to money.  I have read intensively in recent times (and am still reading and researching) about modern-day people who live without money, and how they make provision for their lives, their choices, dwellings and daily occupation.  From what I have seen, it appears necessary that for each person who lives without money there must be a substantial network of people dependent on the usual money system.  In other words, the moneyless people are gleaners.  I have no objection to this, just am interested.  It is part of their contribution to society – treasure-hunting amid the waste, demonstrating that what is discarded was in fact valuable.  I have not so far come across a moneyless group that includes children, old people, frail, chronically ill, dying or disabled people.  I cannot see how they could manage without significant injections of money – not without great suffering.  But I am interested in the idea of living without money, and at the moment I am drawing the information I can glean from moneyless lives to intercept my relationship with money, which needs taking right back to the root and re-growing.  So I am gleaning from the gleaners.  They live on the periphery of society, in it but not of it, and make a strong prophetic contribution to society as a whole.

In thinking about electricity, I have become interested in the change in balance made to my/our life as soon as powered facilities enter the equation – electric light, power tools, fuelled vehicles, central heating and so on.  The changes to the overall structure of our lives are radical and no doubt beneficial – but they ramify into the deepest parts of who we become.   I would like to begin disengagement from the powered life – when I say begin, I mean make a gradual, incremental change, a lateral drift.

Solitude is becoming increasingly necessary, and the stimulus of engagement and interaction makes my head spin.  I am intrigued by the lives of solitaries, and I read about them.  I’ve added a small list of links in the right-hand pane on this page in case you are interested too.  I think my father was by nature a solitary.

All these things – silence, solitude, money, electricity – are bound up in immediacy.  In silence, one faces the wilderness of wild beasts and angels in one’s own soul very immediately and inescapably.  In solitude, one clambers about among the rocks and ravines of the spiritual territory, learning little but experiencing much, assailed by the terrors of peace.  Money and electricity both create distance and isolation (oddly, isolation and solitude are very different things).  They hold the living world with all its teeming vibrant richness, at a remove.  Money and electricity are the means by which we refuse to be at life’s mercy, override the natural rhythms of day and night, health and sickness (even death). Money and electricity alter our sources and expectation of food and clothing, warmth and shelter.  Without them we are plunged into a sudden urgent immediacy of life – what we can glean and gather, the necessity of firewood and the value of daylight, the grateful warmth of a sunny day, the precious arrival of rain, the treasure of wind to dry wet clothes and air the house.  Making with our own hands is slow and mindful work, and we find our soul has gone into the finished creation.  When we eat the potato, the cherry, the apple, the bean, everything about it is full of the memory of the long cold spring, or the dry spell in June, or the relentless winds of March that held up the planting, or the late frosts that took half the crop.  If we ride in a trap pulled by a horse, we notice the comfortable back and forth rhythm of the pull-and-slack, quite different from the driving of a powered vehicle.  When we go on foot, we know so much more of the terrain – the gradients, the wild flowers, the creatures who live there, the variations of shelter and exposure, the composition of the track.  And when we go barefoot, the information magnifies exponentially in its immediacy.  Life without immediacy is only a shadow, a husk, of what it was meant to be.

I am not sure of the place in my life of silence, solitude, money, electricity and immediacy, but it has become clear to me that these are the areas needing focus and revision – touch-stones or flash-points or something.


--------------------------------------------------- 

365 366 Day 183 – Sunday July 1st



These small acrylic cups were packaging from store-bought desserts.  Disconcerting.  Unjustifiable.  I kept them for a while to use as glasses, and for the Wretched Wretch to play with: but in the end I faced that they were clutter and rubbish, their manufacture and purpose an inexcusable cost to Mother Earth.

365 366 Day 182 – Saturday June 30th



Small cards are a form of clutter I have observed to be increasing.  Store gift cards or loyalty cards, library cards, fridge magnets, appointment reminders, cards for blood donation, cards with sentimental verses for recipients to tuck into a wallet . . . every passing thought and intention and obligation seems to require bringing into permanent material form. 


18 comments:

Daisyanon said...

Just a quick comment, more later. There is also the Fellowship of Solitaries which I have found a great help over the years.

It's members are mainly ordinary people, like us trying to work out our call to silence and solitude in the midst of the active life.

http://www.solitaries.org.uk/

Pilgrim said...

We had over half a million people without electricity in Ohio, after a storm on Friday. Many will not have it for a week. No hot water for showers, and a lot of food will need to be thrown out.

We are fortunate to still have it. My son gets very little sleep in this heat, without an air conditioner. We've had over a week of temperatures in the 90s, during the day, and are looking at another coming on.

It is easy to spend money very quickly, without much thought, especially as prices continue to rise.
I also have a billfold packed with cards. Everyone wants to be remembered, to pitch for a sale every time you open your wallet.

kat said...

have just chopped up about ten "money'ish" cards, lying unused in a desk for years!!
xxx

Ember said...

Hi Daisy - thanks for that link - looking forward to exploring it. x

Hi Pilgrim - what you say about Ohio is another really good reason for re-examining my relationship with electricity. In these turbulent times I imagine such events as you describe will happen more and more. Though none of us can entirely insulate ourselves against common misfortune, if our lives are simple and basic the challenges have to be very serious to affect us significantly.
Some things of course we can only do collaboratively. I read one time about a town in California where they planted a great many trees, and as these grew up the need for air conditioning diminished considerably - but the civic imagination doesn't usually stretch to such visionary lengths.
Absolutely about the money - it just runs out like water!!

Hi Kat - yes, chop those cards! x

Zillah said...

Thank you for sharing those thoughts. I'm at a time in my life (small children to home educate, bakery to run) when I find it hard to make time to read as much as I would like. Your concerns are similar to mine, and I value learning about the things which you have read and pondered upon.

More please!

Ember said...

:0) Hi Zillah! Waving! Teaching small children and baking bread . . . what better immediacy could there be. These are occupations of the soul, close to God's heart. x

Maria said...

Since My Lord saw fit to bring me another treadle sewing machine (I sold the one I had) I find myself sewing more and more for myself and for my family.

Taking my time for the garment to take shape, is such a blessing. When the needle goes into the fabric and I pull it through, I am connected in a moment of stillness.

I understand completely my friend. I find myself enjoying my solitary endeavors, because it gives me more time to be with My Lord quietly.

m.

Ember said...

:0)I read the wonderful story about your sewing machine on your blog, Maria - God bless your stitching! xx

Tess said...

Ember, another wonderful, thoughtful post, thank you. I'm so looking forward to the links you've posted. Here's another suggestion: http://www.hermitary.com/

Ember said...

Cool! Thank you, Tess. That looks good, I've added it to my list of links. x

decided said...

A thought provoking post.
I think I am one of the "gleaners" you mentioned.

Ember said...

:0) Hello decided. I like your blog. Good to meet you.

Linda said...

I have just started a big clean up, that we probably won't have time to finish this time round, which is why it is there I guess. I have had five kids, and all these excess things are from the time of a full house, a magazine habit, keeping baby fixings? etc.

But, when it is taken away I will have not much, because our money has been tight lately and I haven't been spending money on clothes, makeup, decorating etc. It will look spartan. I don't live near chain stores. I was looking today for a decoration for my room, if I can afford one lol. Basically you need a certain amount spent on you and children to be well maintained as the real estate people put it. I see old friends I grew up with in the city now with money and they look different to me. So I mean a certain amount to be well maintained, the rest seemed to take something away from them, the good life is taking something from them. I had a nice bottle of wine, shouted it to myself and it was nice. So I think an occasional treat may help, but I think it is a way of life for them so maybe not a treat so much any more. I don't know, I remember being like that when I was in my 30s. I like this semi spartan life better, but want it to be slightly easier, which it will be I think.

Ember said...

:0) One of the joys of living simply is that we get our treats back! The more luxurious a person's life becomes, the more treats they lose.

Paula said...

Hello, Pen,

I'm catching up after being away for 2 weeks, with a day and a half at home between weeks. It was during that day and a half that the huge storm hit Ohio (see Pilgrim's comment). Our home was without power and phone for 8 days. The last time this happened, I learned many of the lessons on which you meditate here. But this time, the storm and power outage accompanied a terrible heat wave. About 30 people died. I was away, of course, but I heard daily from my dear husband about the trials of trying to keep pets comfortable in my absence, and the efforts to keep the fish in the backyard pond from dying. (We lost two before we realized they were in trouble.)

I don't know what the solution would be if our country were without any electricity. The local governments opened up community centers and shelters for people to come to, to escape the heat and charge their phones. During times like this, I recognize that my romantic notions run hard up against the reality of Mother Nature, and I count my blessings for living in a 1st world country.

Love, Paula in Ohio

Ember said...

Hi Paula - good to hear from you!
Ohio . . . there's a significant Amish population in Ohio, sin't there? And they don't have phones or electricity in their homes, but they do have a significant number of animals. I wonder how they care for their people and animals in the heat wave?

Paula said...

Yes, there is a very large population of Amish in the northern part of Ohio.

Well, I've just done a google search, and many people point out what folks have done for hundreds of years. Work early in the day and late. Live in the basement. Cook outside. Wide porches. Houses built for cross-ventilation (largely forgotten by new builders). In addition, drink lots of water and lemonade, and play in the creek. For animals, the Amish apparently will put a tub of water by the road to help travelers sustain their horses.

Barns are often high-ceilinged enough to allow heat to rise away from the ground.

Two weeks ago, I was at the Stillwater Friends Meetinghouse in Barnesville, Ohio, when a heat wave struck us. The meetinghouse is cavernous, but we were very hot. We used hand fans, in addition to electric. The kitchen and dining hall at Olney Friends School are partly basement. Much cooler there than anywhere else. The girls' dormitory is built into the side of the hill, so the lower level is quite cool, and breezes come through to cool the first floor (upper level), which faces north.

We have largely forgotten how to keep cool through proper house design and planting shade trees. I have neighbors who cut down their trees because they hate to rake leaves. Their yard is bleak, and their air conditioner runs all the time. But we have become accustomed to electricity, and when it is 100 degrees for several days in a row, we can't just roll with the punches.

Ember said...

Aha! Such good and practical measures! I especially like the working early and late, because it's one of those strategies that can be done without special technology or altering the house or spending money - just simple adaptation.
Stillwater Meeting House - that's the one where the Conservative Friends Meeting is that Kevin Roberts posts the photos of on the website, isn't it? I love those photos!