Monday, July 25, 2005

milk and honey

As long as I have my own cup of milk,

By God, I won't covet anyone's honey.

Beat me with canes till death if you will,

I won't sell my freedom for slavery.

#1202: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search words: new, buy, own

Yesterday we bought a new printer. We now own yet another technological toy. We have old printers dating back to 1996 and 2000, so we were due for a new one. I also own a Singer sewing machine that I inherited from my grandmother. It's a heavy wooden thing but it works fine and does all that I need. It could be about a century old, now that is fine enduring technology. Perhaps because I myself am old, I do love old things but I can also relate to my son's excitement at acquiring a new piece of computer equipment.

Greed to have more than we have is what drives us to try ever harder, to push ourselves beyond endurance. I'm with Rumi on this one. I'd rather settle for the basics - for him, a cup of milk - than go for the luxuries as represented here by honey. I can see the beauty of honey: for me, it would be a grand old house with servants to keep it in order, a lovely library with the walls lined in exquisitely bound classics and framed prints, and a well laid out and well kept garden outside in which to stroll with rolling lawns descending to a generous pond for ducks and swans. Instead, I have a modest semi-detached brick house, almost a century old, in an unfashionable suburb far from the city centre and far from the beaches, with a small unkempt but lush garden and only the pools of water that collect in the palm tree debris. To covet the grand mansion is to forget to enjoy the small house.

Enticing us to want more - today, mainly through advertising - is not the only way. We can also be punished - beaten with canes - to force our submission or slavery. In the first we become slaves to our greed, in the second to our fear. Either way, we lose who we are, we lose our soul, and no luxury or security can be worth that price.

I've not been beaten with canes myself but I've been punished again and again, in the ways that my society allows. Loss of dignity, loss of finances, loss of career, loss of social connections. Keep it up, guys, keep it up! This gal is not about to budge. Just like a person being beaten, sometimes I wonder if I can indeed endure. Then my courage returns and I realise how truly free I am and how precious that is. I love cats so much precisely because all of this comes so naturally to them. They seem to have this understanding wired in unlike humans who seem to need to discover it.

Today I hope to make use of my beloved old sewing machine but I do also share my son's excitement with the new printer. That is his cup of milk while I have my own. All's good.


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