If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the majesty of the sea
- Marcus Aurelius
This afternoon, as the last few hours of sun waved its pastel goodbyes with spongy clouds, I was busy planting a bamboo fence, a task briefly interrupted to solemnly bury a chick with Leela then joyously dance around the grave, all to a soundtrack of Elvis Presley's Spanish Eyes. It's one of those moments which brings to mind the infinite line in Tracy Chapman's song, Fast Car: ..."and finally see what it's like to be living"; for that surreal moment, Leela and I were living in those rare moments in which I feel a peculiar comforting familiarity, that somehow I'm appearing in a play that was already written.
Leela is 5 years old. She inflated with joy when my voice rose to introduce the idea of her building a trap door for her den, neither of which she had ever heard of. If you are 5, discovering things once is enough to validate their worth. Her ease reminded me of the ease with which, when I began volunteering, I suggested that I made a pond where the old concrete depression was. I had been inspired to re-invent the gloomy grey space and my ideas were encouraged. Since that moment my work hasn't involved merely moving rocks, or planting bamboo, or adding water - I'm becoming friends with the space, dreaming about its future beauty, I'm playing... and then the rest is already history.
Despite my artistic, philosophical nature, there is a darker reductionist belly glistening beneath the fluffier thoughts - those which count, measure and verify, dismiss ideas which stem from a fun light-hearted sensibility. Creative thought wasn't particularly understood or encouraged from my traditional and conservative family, so the dismiss reflex...even the shame reflex...is still strong in me despite my concerted efforts to stop censoring what I'm sure once was a very natural urge. I know living from that more intuitive way brings me immense joy, straight to the umbilical cord of energy that each day births.
On the contrary, the 'serious' concerns I can entertain often leave me a bit cold and I consider that someone or something is distracting me from my Very Important mission, I allow myself to become very grumpy, irritable and comfort myself with ideas like I am surrounded by idiots. I don't like that person and I shouldn't imagine many others do, either.
When Leela and I are working, or playing, or resting, all we're really doing is hanging out. There is no sense of boundary when she joins in with something, no glances at the clock to see when she will finish. Her will is her driving force. In siesta, she asked me for a piece of paper because she wanted to draw. After 5 minutes, she left the table and asked could she join me at the pond. I said, exacerbated a little by what I thought was her diminished attention span, "I thought you wanted to draw" to which she simply replied, "I did - I'm finished now". What a great reminder that we can pick up a pencil any time, draw for a few minutes and express whatever's on our mind - I suffocate and burden myself with the sludge of over-thinking, pigeon-holing an idea into something like a poem, or a serious piece of art, a perfect piece, a blog post. Leela's way of thinking shows me that nothing is important, and everything is - at the same time. That freedom is ours, every moment.
Freedom is a theme I am constantly working on as I try to find a sustainable way of living. I know that work or, rather, the urge to get involved in something we love, is as natural as breathing. But, it needs space, it needs to lack the constriction and superimposed scaffolding of the 'working day' (stifling a yawn). The move must come from within, like the best education - only then can we draw out and engage with, equally meet with what we truly find important. Going through the motions is no way to pass the time of day, the month and, before we know it, our lives. That's why connection to community has become so important to me - it is in our networks that we find support, encouragement, challenge and opportunity to grow, reverse, re-consider, step forwards, evolve.
A blogpost on Toward Community shared the point of view that being in community is a great way to consistently mirror the real us through the behaviour we exhibit and how we choose to react to situations. Alone, we can remain unchallenged and imagine, in our isolated ease, what wonderful, kind and easy-going people we are. However, being around many people for much of the time, barriers that we put up can be immediately highlighted and challenged. I have realised many times that, as cliched as it is to write, the obstacles I can regularly invent are purely imaginary and spring from that old devil, fear...silly fears like, "I might feel vulnerable", or "I'm wasting time". None of it is true. And, because I have only intellectually agreed with living in a loving way, community living constantly forces me to put those beliefs into practice.