Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Emptiness Happiness

'Emptiness' is a word I associate with negative connotations - specifically, sad pop songs about someone whose baby has left him feeling blue because she has left him and is now in the arms of someone nue. (At least, she is nue. No doubt in the arms of someone nu. Tsk. What are they like?!)

In general, 'empty' goes with 'sad and', or is a synonym for 'lonely'.

But I love emptiness.

On the telly quite often there are adverts for products for people with constipation. With contorted faces they rub their bellies and discuss that terrible bloated feeling that they all seem to have - it's odd actually becaue they are usually lithe, active types as thin as rakes; somebody may not be being quite straight with us... What are they eating? What exercise are they (not) taking, that they are having such frightful problems with bloating?

Anyway, they all agree that if you knock back this probiotic yoghourt or high-bran cereal, or whatever it is that will go to work on the bowel, you will be renewed and re-energised - because you will have had a Really Good Poo.

And who can argue with that? Emptiness brings wellbeing and relief.

Lao Tsu wrote about emptiness:
Thirty Spokes share the wheels hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes that make it useful.
Therefore, profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there
(Tao Te Ching, 11.)

Getting rid of Stuff was a project that took three years to accomplish. Even now of course, Stuff still accumulates. It comes in different categories:

  1. Things that seem to arrive by themselves. We had a large purple towel in our bathroom. We assumed it was Ben's. Then one day Badger asked him, and he said it wasn't his. So we assumed it was Miguel's. But he didn't have any towels when he came - and when Badger asked him, he said it wasn't his either. We have no idea where it came from. A previous lodger, maybe?
  2. Things that people leave behind. When Miguel went back to Spain after several months in England, he had accumulated a few items that it was impractical to take - a straw hat, some bacon and a tin of spaghetti, some plastic coathangers; the tail-end of a stay. We didn't want them either.
  3. Things that people give you for presents. This is, oddly, more difficult when you like them and when you want them than when you don't. The useless and hideous can simply go to the charity shop to await someone with a different point of view. It's the lovely things that are the problem. And the things given by people who visit often. And worst of all, the things you asked for. I saw this beautiful skirt in an expensive shop that sells gorgeous linen garments in Lavenham. It cost £72. Let me repeat that - £72! I had no money. My mother said she would buy it for me. My sister egged us on. Everyone was buying things. I got carried away and accepted it. I could never find anything that went with it - it looked odd with all my clothes. It needed a frilly shirt. I look DISASTROUS in frilly shirts. It was see-through and needed a slip underneath it. I hate wearing slips - they make me feel claustrophobic. I kept one slip just to wear under this skirt that I never wore because I had nothing that went with it and I hate wearing slips. So I thought I'd cut my losses and sell it on ebay. I did. It went for £3.31. My mother lives in Saffron Walden. So does the woman that bought it. Oh, no! Oh, glory! Ah well - I wrapped it up nicely and put the slip in with it. Ha! Another thing gone! :0)
  4. Things that you thought you wanted. At one time when our house was over-run with the joyful guests of one of our lodgers, I began to get a bit desperate about the lack of privacy regarding the bathroom. I bought a Porta-potti plus associated chemicals and loo paper which altogether plus carriage cost me £100. I thought it was just the thing I needed and would make all the difference and revolutionise my life and make me happy and be fantastically useful in the Flophouse. It did none of these things and nobody else wants it either and at the present time it's advertised in the local paper for £45.
  5. Flotsam and jetsam. The junk mail that includes an advertisement for something that seems relevant. Instructions for appliances. Metal bookends. Scart leads. Polyfilla. Unsuccessful shampoo. Really Good cardboard boxes - and bubble wrap. An extra telephone that still works. Ringbinders. Elastic bands. That sort of thing.

These are the items that accumulate to cause Household bloat. The entire building needs dosing with Allbran and Danone, it needs to do a massive poo - because IT IS THE SPACE WITHIN THAT MAKES IT USEFUL.

When the stuff levels are strictly monitored; when I start the day in this calm, uncluttered bedroom with its huge, airy window, drinking Earl Grey tea from a plain white mug, sitting up in bed with no throws or funky bedspreads, just a duvet in a calm cotton cover, wearing one of my three nighties (one to wear, one in the wash, one in the drawer); and look forward down a day in which there is time to do the tasks that belong to that day, time to write, time to think, time for people, nothing much to be cleaned and tidied in this uncluttered house - oh glory, I feel good!

Toinette Lippe says 'Problems arise when things accumulate'. Amen! Do they not!


PG said...

Oh how I loath those 'blerted' adverts...I tend not to watch much TV anyway, but the mute button is on during the ads...I wonder what the pile of landfill would lok like if it was all made up of those little pro-biotic bottles that we are 'supposed' to be consuming one of a day? Blerted Earth too.

How funny, my word verification is 'poostp'

Buzzfloyd said...

Great word, PG!

When I started reading this blog post, I was feeling a bit unsure about whether I thought emptiness was a good thing. But by the end, I was feeling very cheerful about the emptiness in your house and your day! Hooray!

(My verification word is himatio. There are more things in heaven and earth, Himatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.)

Ember said...

'Blerted'... 'poostp'...


Ember said...

Himatio! Quel funnylingus!

martine frampton said...

Thank you for sharing. this made me smile.
best wishes Martine

Ganeida said...

Hi I followed your link from pollenhonesty & enjoyed this very much. I have been trying to declutter for years but every time I manage to get rid of stuff [& create that empty *useful* space one of my 5 children takes it as an open invite to fill it with something they don't want cluttering up *their* space but need occassionally! If I lived in a tent I think this would still happen.

Ember said...

Oh yes! That can so easily happen! The whole issue of boundaries is integral to living simply.
My book "In Celebration of Simplicity", that comes out in September, takes up that area of concern - which I agree is inescapable!