Just now, I paused at the midway point between the house and the study, where neither wifi signal quite reaches my phone, stood in the sun and the incessant wind, and let all the thoughts in my head just crowd into each other. War and grammar, playlists and plots, the whereabouts of each of our four children and what they might be doing, what those shouts beyond the houses on the edge of my vision might be, football, meanings; all those signposts in life that suddenly appear on the road towards the unknown destination when you take a moment to rest, to catch an unhurried breath, when the world seems to stop for a split second, when things become clear, and the split second can be a life-time. Is that meditation, is that rest, is that reflection?
The book I’m reading right now is a piece of what I’d call pulp fiction about 16th century France and the Netherlands, about religious conflict, massacres, intrigues, all based on history, with marginal fictional characters at the centre of the action. Although it’s not brilliantly written, it is relevant to me because it underlines the recurring thought I have, this constant belief I have, that organised religion is at fault for the majority of all wars this world has seen, that true faith has been usurped by organised religion. The same way in which the principle of all people and peoples being equal has been hijacked by the ideologies of power and conquest and expansionism. I always had huge arguments with my father about my world view that Jesus was the first communist, because what he preached was all about equality and community. I realise that even now many people think of me as a naive utopian, that there can be no world without overlords, that ideology is the most important thing, that the observation of church (and church of any religion) rituals is the most important way in which to express your faith. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It is my firm belief that all true faiths are in your heart, that being of true faith means being good, recognising the difference between good and evil, that being of faith means not lying, not killing, not imposing your will on others. I do realise that those ethical dilemmas those of more organised mind than me are genuine dilemmas (like “but you’d kill to defend those you love, wouldn’t you?”, and that if I was ever truly tested with one of those dilemmas I might be found severely wanting by my own standards, but what my beliefs say to me is that if the world was truly arranged in the way I think it is meant to be, then those dilemmas wouldn’t arise in the first place.
There is within me a straining for simplicity, the recognition that all the philosophical, economic, political theses ever written have so complicated the world and thought, that hairs are split not just into two strands but into an infinite number of strands that have led humankind down any number of blind alleys, that have distracted everyone from the true simplicity of life. Blind alleys of extremism. And that’s where we are now. And under my sadness and depression and despair at the world, I still hold on to the hope that things can get better, that evil will be beaten.
I don’t really want to be sitting in this study while the sun is shining outside, despite the wind. I bought four bags of gravel yesterday, and I want to pour it into the gaps it is intended to fill. And find my chisel (which I bought in Norway many years ago when I thought I would try myself at sculpting) so I can chop away a superfluous concrete plate under the garage door. Maybe those preoccupations and activities are the simplicity I seek. And then again a part of me says they are just bourgeois, white middle-class preoccupations. I obviously don’t know my mind at all.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 15