Odd and unsettling how easy it is to become distracted from purpose. The number of times I have come home from buying groceries and thought, “But why did I get this? Why have I bought these greens wrapped in a plastic bag from the supermarket? We said we’d only get things like cat food and soya milk from the supermarket – the greens were meant to come from the little greengrocer, in a paper bag that doesn’t sit in landfill till kingdom come. Why did I get them?”
And the reason always is that I just forgot.
There are so many principles to bear in mind. The greens are healthy, vegan, inexpensive – just the thing. I forgot to add in about small, local businesses, and about packaging.
Or we go to the farm shop, and I think, “But this is wonderful! This is exactly and precisely what every shop should be like! A family business, so friendly and informal, vegetables all fresh and tasty and looking like they actually grew in the ground not in some hydroponic system in a vegetable factory – I must have those carrots, those potatoes that have come from our own county instead of being trucked from far away, those strawberries on special offer that were grown right here on the farm! And those perfect radishes!”
And that’s all fine, and they are packed in paper bags not plastic – but I forget that I’m on a very tight budget right now with very little to spare, and extra purchases like these land me in a serious mess. So at the end of the week when I do my accounts, I look back on these things that seemed so reasonable, almost self-evident, at the time, and think, “Why did I do that?”
I forget. I just forget.
What I need is little mnemonics (why do they put that ‘n’ in that word? What’s the point of it?) to help me remnember.
So I have come up with this definitive, concise, irreducible summary of the path I want:
And here are its enemies:
I don’t mind telling you it took a long time before that third one, ‘Self-consciousness’ presented itself to my interior vision. I was looking for a third (or sixth, depending on how you look at it) thing to make my mnemonic list. I could see that spending fouls things up big-time, and I know that socialising drains the very life out of me like the podlings in The Dark Crystal being tapped to keep the skeksis alive. But I wanted a third thing to make up the set. A third thing beginning with ‘s’, I mean.
And then it came into my head. Self-consciousness. If it were not for that I’d have been happy wearing saris (which I love) for the rest of my life, and not felt so wretched about attracting attention wherever I went. If it were not for self-consciousness I’d have been happy with the Plain dress I then moved onto, and not felt so eaten up with looking odd and out of place and horribly visible. So think of all the money I’d have saved if I didn’t have this urge to slink about in an invisibility cloak. If it were not for self-consciousness I’d be happy to wear my ginormous and beautiful straw hat out and about instead of just in the garden, and wouldn’t have spent the money on a smaller, less obtrusive one for going out.
So I think self-consciousness is one of the enemies, and is linked by barbs and hooks and tangles to socialising and spending. They are a set.
And now I will be able to remember that the characteristics of my path are simplicity, solitude and silence, because that’s easy and small and all begins with one letter. I don’t mean something extreme – not ascetic nakedness and isolation and never speaking to anyone again – it’s just those (simplicity, solitude, silence) are the things I need to function well, and are necessary ingredients of my life vision dream.
And I will be able to remember to look out warily for spending, socialising and self-consciousness, knowing that they are stingers flung across the path.
By the way, I don’t mean socialising and spending are bad for you. Maybe you are a sociable person with loads of dosh. I mean bad for me, because of who I am. But self-consciousness is probably a wrecker in anybody’s life.
And simplicity, solitude and silence may sound like a prison sentence to you – but to me they are the three graces, the path of peace.
This was a Useful Thing I had for ages. It was one of a heap of wooden drawers of different sizes I found stacked outside a junk-shop one evening. They used to put out things they couldn’t sell, for anyone to help themselves, and leave them there overnight. If they hadn’t gone in the morning they’d take them to the dump in their van. We brought them home and we have several tucked around the place doing good service. This one became the container for one of the craft kits I made for Freecycle. I guess in an earlier incarnation it had been a drawer in one of those fitted Gentlemen’s Wardrobes. Or maybe from an old shop fitting. And before that it was a tree.
A sari top. Gosh, I do love saris. They are the best clothes ever.