Two nights ago it was the coldest here it has been in over 12 years and we were without power for most of it. We were without power from about 1am to 5am. It came back on for a little while and then went out again for some hours yesterday morning.
I found this more unsettling than usual. Part of the reason is probably because I have a disconnect notice from our utility company sitting on my desk which I have no idea how to pay. Some of my unsettled feeling is due to my deepening thinking about man-made systems and the uncertainty of the future we all face.
We Americans believe - no, have a certainty - that the power will always come back on. This certainty doesn’t just out of a feeling of entitlement but is embedded in our view of reality. We have never known anything else. To confront going without, not just out of poverty, but because there simply isn’t any (electricity, gas, food, health care…) rocks our world view in fundamental ways.
But one day, that will all come true. There simply won’t be any. What will we do? How will we respond? At what point will we respond? Tomorrow, first thing? Or the day the power goes off and doesn’t come back on, and not a minute sooner?
I lay awake most of the night thinking about these things, observing the vulnerability, praying for all of those out there on a bitter cold night with no heat.
And, I thought, as close as we are as a family to living off the grid - we are still nearly close enough for my taste. We are vulnerable right now because I don’t know how I am going to pay our bill and avoid having our utilities shut off in a few days. We are vulnerable because I couldn’t get the pancakes I was already in the middle of making when we lost power again to cook properly on our wood burning stove. We are vulnerable because we don’t have immediate community around us with whom to share risks and problem solving.
I am grateful that as hard as we are working on these changes of lifestyle, we still keep getting enough small shocks to keep us highly interested in seeing this homesteading/living a simple life/getting off the grid/spiritually based family life project to its conclusion. Well, “conclusion” is probably a bad word. How could there be conclusions to such things? How about “full expression”? We are receiving enough shocks in terms of worldly bad news and challenging personal experiences to remain highly motivated to see this project through to its fullest expression.
Yes, and we also receive confirmation in many ways for the direction we are taking. A feeling of peace or satisfaction, for instance. Observing the growing competence and fortitude of our children, for another. Or the positive comments of other like-minded individuals and families or this that our spiritual Master noted recently:
Nothing is difficult. You just throw away everything and you will find that you are as happy and comfortable as you were before you got hi-tech. What does it take? Leave your computer at home, disconnect your telephone, disconnect your electricity: you are back in the beginning. It doesn’t take much. What is civilisation? It’s nothing but a few instruments of communication and illumination! What else is civilisation?
You sleep out one night and look at the stars - you are where your original forefathers were. It’s beautiful. And then you begin to wonder why on earth you went where houses are air conditioned 24 hours of the day, where you don’t know from inside whether it’s raining or not. The wind is blowing and you think it’s cool outside and you go and it’s 120 [degrees]! You wonder because it’s all artificial. So to cut off artificial is natural. There is nothing primitive about that. Natural was always natural. Sahaj Sandesh Dec. 29, 2008
Oh, it meant a lot to me to read those words. “Natural was always natural.” And always will be natural, I might add. It is us who are unnatural. We must deconstruct all that we have piled on the natural state to find our way back to a simple way of life that allows us to re-focus on the goal of human life. That is the only option. We can take it willingly and in a timely fashion or unwillingly and with all kinds of suffering and angst but take it we must.
A couple of weeks ago, a thought boomed into my mind that didn’t seem to come from me. It was, “Nature will support you if you are content to live with what Nature naturally provides.” This keeps ringing through my inner chambers completely unbidden by me. It seems to me to be one of those statements that is deceptively obvious, deceptively simple.
What does Nature willingly provide? What was the Original Contract between Nature and humans (if we can even think of humans as being at all separate from Nature in order to require a contract)? What is the difference between what Nature is created to provide us and what it will yield when forced to by humans? And how long will this yielding hold out? No. No, I want to get back to the Original Contract. I want what is willingly given and not what has perhaps been reluctantly yielded all of this time. I want to live within the Original Contract, the Original Design. I know it will be better, whether I understand it or not or even know how do it right now or not.
This notion of living within the center of what Nature willingly provides is how I understand the famous Matthew 6:25-34:
25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life”?
28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Notions about Christianity and paganism aside, I take the idea here as being the same as what I am talking about. Live as He would have you live, and the resulting harmony with Nature will provide you with all that you truly need. This is a startling thought when you think about it freshly. Fulfilling our needs comes perhaps not through our great intellect or organizational abilities or sheer (often brutal) efforts. Fulfillment of our needs perhaps comes about most quickly and easily through living in harmony with natural law.
Run as fast as you can to any corner of the universe and the Law will be there waiting for you. Cornbread Nation 3, p. 14, from Marilou Awiakata’s “Compass for Our Journey”
So for a long night and following day I considered these matters even more deeply and more urgently than I usually do. This morning I was grinding some cumin seeds for our Sunday morning breakfast in a coffee grinder when I thought, “I am going to make a list, by crackey!” Yes, I am going to make a list of all the ways we as a family rely upon “the grid” to accomplish our daily life tasks so that I can keep track of the changes and adaptations we still need to make.
I can immediately start my list with:
mortar and pestle.
Quickly I can add:
wood burning cook stove;
water storage and (hopefully) a hand water pump for outside.
When I complete our list, I will post it here in the spirit of us all working together. I do enjoy crossing things off of lists. Don’t you? But crossing items off of this list will be a special pleasure and gift, no matter how long it takes. But even more, I look forward intensely to the day that it all just dissolves into a simple life led only in Him.
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,