15 May 2010
How to Live a Simple Life
On the tele last night was a programme following a vicar who is experimenting with living a money free life. I don't believe in God but I do believe in a lot of the sentiments which were in the programme and are the best parts of religious belief. In Last nights programme Vicar Peter Owen Jones set off moneyless and foodless to travel to the home of environmentalist Shatish Kumar(Editor of a really thought provoking and dense magazine called Resurgence). Along the way he lived according to the teachings of St Francis, he was not allowed to handle money and had to survive by asking people to buy food, a train fare and give him lifts and a place to stay. This was an effort to be less self sufficient, less of an island from others, humble himself, rid himself of ego and give people the opportunity to be generous. Throughout the programme there were lots of discussions with folks about how the thrust of modern life has been to make ourselves non dependant on each other. This is something I am really aware of. Each of us sitting in our island, sometimes lonely, never being able to just step out and have a chat or give spontaneously of our time. Keeping our eyes on the ground at bus stops in case somebody tries to talk to us or never entertaining the idea of a bus because then we would have to share our transport. All encased in our homes with everything we need and no way of getting rid of what we don't need bar throwing it in the bin. I have also at times been aware of the positive feeling I have had when I have allowed myself to be vulnerable or needy and rely on the generosity of others. This often happens to me during an art activity.
When I worked on an flattened site in Blackburn I used to sit with another artist doing art type activities. Neither of us drove so we couldn't buy lots of materials and bring them to the site. I needed some boxes so went to see the local shop keeper. His house and shop sat on the edge of the site then but has probably been demolished by now(The Picture above is of the shop, The Owner and his son watcing the film we produced with their help). That little need and an explanation of why we needed it led to him offering us cups of tea, biscuits, stories, a necklace which I still have, friendship and use of his house toilet throughout our stay. It made me feel amazed, full of warmth, gave me a fresh sense of what lovely things people are capable of.
During the first few weeks of Starvation Diet myself and a friend had a conversation about personal ownership and the things we use very rarely but feel that we need, we started a list which included scales, a shoe shine kit and a ladder. After this conversation I decided to only weigh myself on other people's scales in their houses and only use each scale once. I also need to get to the scales under my own steam. This requires a certain amount of trust on the givers part, and on my part the ability to do something I find really hard, to ask for a favour and be less independent, I am by nature a pretty independent type. Its amazing how hard this is for us, having to ask for things sets us apart from most other people who can live without ever needing each other, live with the common understanding that cash normally given in a shop will get you things. One of the people I asked for the use of a scales very generously offered me a spare set of scales she had in her garage. I could have taken it and become scales self sufficient again. It would have made the project a lot more comfortable and I would not have been facing the fact that at some point I am going to run out of friends who live close by and will have to ask strangers, neighbours or people further from home. But by accepting the kind offer I'd be back in my house, removed, never needing to put on my boots and walk or get on my bike and ride. Never needing to ask anybody and have them look at me as if I am more than a bit strange. However this process allows for wonderfully unexpected acts of kindness. I was amazed again the other day when at my knitting group one of the ladies gave me her key to go into her house and use her scales and when another lady who has just had open heart surgery offered me the use of her scales and an afternoon cup of tea. It brings a tear to my eye to think of the generosity which can be elicited and is lurking just beyond societies fear and cynicism.