There’s lots to be said for a simpler life. It can bring moments of gratitude for simple things.
Like, in place of air conditioning, sitting in shorts and a tank top with a bit of soapy water on your face; or the joy of slowly letting go of things.
St Ignatius in the spiritual exercises talks of disordered attachments. The nuns here say that my cat is my disordered attachment (affecto desordenada, or is it my affecta desordenado???)
Ignatius was referring to the things that keep us weighed down.
Like the story of the rich young man who, when confronted with the challenge to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor, went away sad.
Most of us do go away a little sad.
I went away from Australia a little sad that I hadn’t fulfilled my promise of packing light, taking three bags instead of two (which quickly became four….).
But little by little, shedding layers has been a lesson here for me.
I’m a bit like an onion at the moment. Peeling off layers, revealing hopefully, a purified version of myself.
Last week, with no notice, I taught a two hour journalism class to fifteen highschoolers.
I had, fortuitously brought along an iPad, a camera and my phone, though, I’m fairly convinced now that we could have managed with a piece of paper to share.
Such was the richness of the conversation that the lack of technology didn’t hinder us.
A few pieces of paper, some toilet paper rolls and a whiteboard marker is all we needed for a workshop with about 30 kids today.
Brazilian bishop Pedro Casaldaliga when interviewed by journalist Mev Puleo said the following:
“We need a civilisation of love and sharing, a certain sobriety that will be a model for our children. Nature teaches us this. You see the children of rich people who have lots of expensive, new toys in their house, and yet they get a stick, some twine and a tin can and make a horse! and all the toys that daddy bought just sit there.”
We become creative when we have little.
So, through this learning, I’ve been slowly letting go of trivial things. My favourite jumper, superfluous camera lenses.
But it is an important challenge which is posed for us in the short clip Landfill harmonic which looks at the group of young people in Cateura, Paraguay who have made an orchestra out of rubbish.
They have literally used recycled oil cans, coke cans, recyclable materials that had been thrown in the trash to create a symphony orchestra and, are currently touring with Metallica.
We might be able to let go, but to what extent do we remain attached? What do we count as rubbish? What do we know isn’t rubbish, but that we can live without?
And what ends up on our shoulders when we remove that weight we were carrying? Shedding the layers is important, but the how and why is important too.