Saturday, April 14, 2012

a small(er) life

I'm not sure if anyone is still subscribed to/reading this blog, but I had some thoughts I wanted to share, so here goes!

Lately I've been rediscovering some of what I love and long for, and learning to give myself permission to take baby steps towards them. One of the books I've been reading has helped in this: What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth by Wendell Berry makes my heart sing! He talks of story and place and local, self-sustaining communities with a healthy, practical understanding of the limitations of their environment. He has strong criticisms for our modern economy because of, among other things, the waste, isolation, overproduction, and separation it fosters. He doesn't really like cities, which is where we disagree, but I appreciate his call to slow down, (re)consider, and be intentional about investing in my local community and economy.

I read a passage this morning that I just had to share, because it called out something deep within me - something I want to emulate and nurture and protect in my hectic, modern life as much as possible. (So if I corner you in the next few weeks and make you sit and talk to me for hours, you'll know why).

I was walking one Sunday afternoon several years ago with an older friend. We went by the ruining log house that had belonged to his grandparents and great-grandparents. The house stirred my friend's memory, and he told how the oldtime people used to visit each other in the evenings, especially in the long evenings of winter. There used to be a sort of institution in our part of the country known as "sitting till bedtime." After supper, when they weren't too tired, neighbors would walk across the fields to visit each other. They popped corn, my friend said, and ate apples and talked. They told each other stories. They told each other stories, as I knew myself, that they all had heard before. Sometimes they told stories about each other, about themselves, living again in their own memories and thus keeping their memories alive. Among the hearers of these stories were always the children. When bedtime came, the visitors lit their lanterns and went home. My friend talked about this, and thought about it, and then he said "They had everything but money" (144-145).

This passage is admittedly romanticized, but it makes me think of and long for the times in life when I've been part of a small(-ish), purposeful community (hopefully without over-idealizing them like the Israelites did of their time in Egypt!). It also makes me pause and think about how I can be intentionally pursuing this small life here and now, in the midst of a hectic job and a regularly-changing community -  something along the lines of, "...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work with your hands..." (1 Thessalonians 4.11). Having people at my home, working towards a greater good with others, and sharing in life's ups and downs together are some of the few things that come to mind at first, but I'll definitely be thinking about it more in the days to come.

What about you? How do you nurture and foster community? Is a small life important to you, too, or do you find more meaning and value in a "bigger," broader life? No judgement either way, just curious to hear what moves and motivates you!


sreeraj said...

Just when I have been thinking on the same lines... I see your blog.

Very often in our life, we are so busy in chasing our ambition, our big dreams and carrier in big cities. While we pursue our small life in cities, we always tend to forget that we leave many important things in life behind. It could be our family, our childhood friends, the community where we have grown up, the wonderful parks, hills, farms and lakes seeing which we have grown up. Well I feel it’s not our fault, as at this moment we feel getting good education, a good job, a successful career and a good life is most important. And most of the time these are only possible and available in cities even when we realise we miss those thing we have left behind back home. Which I too believe is right and there is nothing wrong to think that way. But Yes… later in our life we do get this question in our mind like you said “how can I be intentionally pursuing this small life here and now, in the midst of a hectic job and a regularly-changing community”.

I really don’t know which is right and which is wrong to pursue… is it the small hectic life in cities or one with family and community back home. I would like to share few things that came to my mind, while I was thinking on similar lines. My dad came from a very small town in Kerala with very limited opportunities to work and get decent money. He moved to Goa from Kerala which during his time was a huge step (Almost like travelling from earth to outer space) to pursue his career. After which he did have a great career and life and was able to raise his family both in Goa and his siblings in Kerala. He too felt at times that in pursue of his career he missed out on his social and family life in Kerala. But then he realised that if he hadn’t to take that step… he would have been able to raise both me and my older brother and give us the life and education we have today. Same comes to my mind too… as I did leave my family & home in Goa to pursue my education in US and then to Bangalore where I live all by myself to pursue my career. Like my dad, I too had to move to a bigger city to pursue my career. So, I feel it’s a normal phenomenon in our life to move on to new places and take new challenges in pursue of better life and career.

But, now days I feel I should spend more time with my family and give back something to my family and my community. Maybe, if there aren’t any opportunities there as of now, but I could start by creating something someday and maybe one day seeing my work, I might motivate others also to do the same. I’m not sure how and when I will be able to take this big step, but like you said I’ll be definitely thinking about it more in the days to come and will take baby steps toward them.

I’m not sure if this was helpful!!!

LynnaeEtta said...

Hi Raj,

Wow, thanks so much for your thoughts! It was good to hear your experiences. And, it's interesting the way I hear you talking about a "small life" - if I'm hearing you correctly, it sounds like the life back home or wherever we grew up is the larger life - is that right? I've been feeling a bit lately like my life in the city is the broader, wider life, one I want to figure out how to make smaller (and less hectic), but I like the implication you're making, that the more individual (and still hectic) life in the city is actually the smaller one. Interesting. :)

Keep taking those baby steps! And let me know how it goes and what conclusions you come to. :)

Sreeraj said...

Yeah! It the way we see our life.. like you said "the city is the broader, wider life, one you want to figure out how to make smaller (and less hectic" and that how we all look toward life as we find more city life wider, giving more opportunities and greater and better experiences!!!

I have been actively thinking on similar lines and have started a blog to pen my thoughts.. its called ''