Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Of Mice and Men

"I threw my cup away when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough."

There was once a man who decided he had too many possessions. Life was more complicated than it should be. So he left his home and his belongings behind and moved to the edge of a wood where he built a small house. This man needed nothing, he told everybody. He had an abundance of fruits from the forest and water from the nearby pond. The man sometimes found wild vegetables and ate them, or he caught some fish when he was hungry. All was well for a time, and he was content. He had nothing and wanted nothing.
Then one day a tiny little mouse came out of the forest. It made a nest for itself in the man's new home. This annoyed the man greatly. He did not know what to do. He tried to ignore it but the mouse ate whatever little fruits he had stored. He tried to pretend the mouse wasn't bothering him but he could hear it scuttling around at night and it infuriated him.
"What shall I do?" he asked the nearby villagers in despair. "How can I get rid of this mouse?"
"You must get a cat," said the wisest man in the village. "The cat will catch the mouse and ensure no other pests will come to live with you."
"Thank you," said the grateful man.
He bought a cat shortly after.
He brought the cat home and was pleased to see that the mouse was now frightened at the cat's presence.
Then the cat cried. It was hungry.
"Where will I get milk?" he wondered. All he ate were fruits and wild vegetables.
"You must get a cow," said the wisest man in the village. "The cow will provide enough milk for you to feed the cat so that the mouse will not come back."
"Thank you," said the grateful man.
He bought a cow shortly after.
He brought the cow home and gave the cat some milk.
Then the cow bellowed. Where would he keep the cow?
"You must build a barn," said the wisest man in the village. "The cow will then be happy and will provide enough milk for you to feed the cat so that the mouse will not come back."
"Thank you," said the grateful man.
So the man built a barn to give shelter to the cow. Not long afterwards, he bought a dog, also. He was getting fearful that somebody would enter the barn and steal the precious cow.
"But what," he asked in misery, "will I feed the dog?"

And all because of a tiny little mouse; things do add up without our noticing them.

To put it less elegantly for a moment: if we have books, we need shelves to store them on;
if we have multiple kinds of clothing, we need multiple kinds of shoes to wear with them;
floors need supplies to keep them clean;
even simple candles need lighting implements;
hair requires shampoo, a brush, a hairdryer...

Does it never end? Does the torrent of 'stuff' we believe we need, never stop?
We ceased using a land-line some months ago due to increasingly high rental costs and now we rely solely on our Internet phone. It is wonderful to be saving so much money but when the Internet is not working, the phone does not work either, a trouble that never arose when we had a separate phone line.
A few days ago we woke up to a dark apartment. When we looked out of the window, we saw a dark street. We had a few things to do around and about so, after a disastrous breakfast, we got in our car and drove. As we went, we noticed that traffic lights were acting strangely everywhere we looked and that not one of the stores had a light on. A storm during the night had apparently wiped out all electricity not on our street alone but within a whole mile radius. I saw that a pharmacy's automatic doors were shut: I wondered aloud how customers would get in without electricity. My Spouse said, "even if they could get in, they can't buy anything. The tills won't open and so there won't be cash available."
"Yes," I said, "but at least one could use a credit card."
"No, they can't. No electricity, remember?"
Oh, dear.
I am not sure what might be the solution. There is no obvious or quick mending of this.
The poor fellow in the story, which my Spouse first told me, attempted a simpler life. Unfortunately it cost him dearly. Most likely he was not a materialistic man or would not have felt possessions were a burden to begin with.
It almost feels as though, once something has been invented, we become clueless as to how to live without it. Once our lives become entwined with a gadget or machine or service, our entire way of living can all of a sudden depend greatly on that item. It is a rather ominous thought.
I suggest at the very least that we can start from right now and not grow any more dependent; that would be a good beginning.
Instead of, for example, buying yet another shelf, drawer, dresser, wall-pocket, basket, barrel or indeed any hiding place for 'stuff', ask yourself if the new storage will help to improve your life.
Perhaps the items to be put into hiding are not really useful, or used, or enabling your life in any way.
Then discard it, if you can.
From now on, let us obviate the need for more and more accessories: keep it simple.

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