To have a solid shelter, with heat that comes on with the flick of a switch, clean drinking water and hot running water with the turn of a tap, comfortable seating and sleeping areas, plenty of bedding and warm clothes, a washing machine… These things are denied to many. Even one thing off this list would represent enormous progress, even luxury, to some. Many of us who have these things do not fully appreciate them. Not only that, the progress and comfort they represent and provide becomes grossly extended.
One of the aspects of Marrakech that we appreciated the most was the sense of timelessness. The hotel we stayed in was decorated with traditional blue mosaic tiling. The orange buildings looked as though they had always looked that way. No one had decided that everything needed updating to fit the latest fashion in decor or architecture.
Contrast that with here in the UK, people changing their furniture before it has even worn out, painting the inside of their homes a different colour according to what’s in that season. ‘Needs updating’ such a spurious phrase, that has helped give rise to the largely unnecessary industries of producing new ‘kitchens’ and ‘bathrooms’ and the mind boggling range of paint colours on offer. Once upon a time there would have been a very limited range of possibilities according to the natural materials and pigments available, simple whitewash, Suffolk pink, yellow ochre, depending on where one lived.
Of course, we need to have shelter for our physical bodies and engaging with the physical world is part of our experience. But we got so distracted with making the home, not simply a comfortable shelter, but by over extending that need into the myriad of wallpaper options, carpet choices and superfluous decorations available that we have today.
We forgot that the other aspect of our existence, as well as being here and experiencing everything we experience, is to remember (or rather, to not forget) who we are. But when people are not doing something to their homes, they are watching television. And no one’s talking about this: no one’s talking about finding out who you really are, because most people are just following the programming and running to a script. You look around, everyone’s doing it, everyone’s getting a mortgage, improving their home, working to pay the bills, making the best of things, not talking about anything. Everyone’s doing it, so it must be okay. But as I have quoted before from someone on the internet: look at what the herd is doing, and do the opposite.
Someone my husband worked with asked him what we did as we don’t watch television. My husband said, and he told me it actually felt weird to say it aloud, we actually spend a lot of time just talking. His work colleague said, but you can talk with the television on. But you can’t, you can’t have a really good conversation, one that can get all deep and meaningful, unless you turn the television off.
Nature abhors a vacuum, so as soon as you get rid of the television, the paint charts- just paint everything neutral or leave it as it is; get rid of the clutter and unnecessary possessions, the stuff… Then awareness floods in instead.
There’s probably an optimum level of comfort. If things are too hard, that takes so much time and energy that there’s no space for creativity. If things get too comfortable, one can be lulled into a false sense of security. Somehow by being too comfortable we become less aware: in our centrally heated comfort zone it’s easy to fall back to sleep. A bit of ‘discomfort’ helps to keep us awake and alert. We need to be kept on our toes. We’re here for a physical experience, so to feel the change in temperature, to notice some physical effort, is not necessarily discomfort at all.
As I have said before, I am all about putting the theory into practice, otherwise, what’s the point of all this theorising? So bearing in mind all that I have said above, how do I want to live? What way of living do I think would be most beneficial for me, for the both of us, my husband and I?
Well I suppose it would be something like this: something small- just an adequate size for what we need- so no room to accumulate ‘stuff’. Something that gives us a simple life, with as few distractions as possible. Something that feels a bit ‘off grid’ compared with being in a house. So a boat: just big enough for what we need, with solar panels but also has an electric hook up, gas hot water for washing up and shower, a woodburner. The boat’s water tank is filled via connecting a hose pipe to a water tap a few feet along the bank. A twin tub washing machine sits in a shed on the bank, is filled from the same tap and used outdoors on the bank, plugged into the boat via an extension lead. Using a washing machine outdoors appeals to me in a back to nature way, and is still comfortable compared with hand washing one’s clothes in a river. Plus there is a launderette up the road which might be a nice option in the winter.
Meet Kindred Spirit: