Free

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See, temptation should really be indulged more often… When I ponder a concept I like researching the origin of the word as well as the current meaning. And while I was pondering the word “independent” it was just a bit too unwieldy, just a tad too grounded… and just a little inaccurate. One of the partial synonims though was “free”, and I like that one better. Then I checked the word origin and I figured out why: it comes from the same ancient word that gave us “friend” and it means “to love”. Now tell me, given what I have written on this blog so far, how could I have resisted this? And more to the point, why should I have resisted?

My preference for the word “free” over “independent” comes from a few life choices I made that are currently paying off and hopefully will continue to do so over the years as well. Let’s examine some:

Financially independent (one of my goals) – if you take the literal meaning it means that you have money that is yours alone, when the actual meaning is that you (not your money) do not depend on someone else for your living expenses. There is a difference. Money will circulate. Utilities that you pay, food that you buy… money circulates, you just don’t need to trade your time/energy/knowledge for it. That means that you are free. And your money isn’t independent, either (think of any investment you like), it’s free.

Self-sufficiency (another one of my goals) – the literal meaning would have you believe that you produce all your own food/shelter/clothes/energy so now you are independent from others. Whilst there may be people like that, I regard them as free rather than independent. The closer people get to self-sufficiency, the more they seem to want…not dependency, but maybe inter-dependence: working bees seem to be the norm, barter/trade/swaps seem to be the norm, community reliance also seems to be the norm.

Child care – ask any parent about some of the things they try to do and sooner or later they will come up with a version of “raising independent children”. Toilet training, feeding and dressing themselves, needing decreasing adult input is a rule of childhood. Yet sometimes I feel we have taken this to extremes and we fear “spoiling” the child so as not to engender dependency. How many parents even now are listening to their child wail in bed alone in an attempt to get them to sleep “independent” of the adults that child depends on for everything in the first place? And yet any zoology (better yet, anthropology) book could reassure those same parents that co-sleeping will not mean a child continues to be dependent on you when he/she is – insert any number here.

The same thing applies for old age. We praise the elderly who live alone in their homes (they are so independent!) and yet the biggest problem they face is not health but loneliness. If you believe the media, this also extends beyond the elderly.

There is, of course, no one answer, merely rules of thumb with as many exceptions as there are people. It seems to me though that we live in a world that by and large allows us to live with a greater degree of freedom than most of “civilization” has ever had. So it would make sense to at least have a look at the rules we live by and check them for any signs of life and meaning.

As for me, free to decide and freedom from judgement trump independent any day of the week. 🙂

Garden – a rant

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I am sure that, should you wish, you could find on YouTube several hilarious videos with bouncy music about the perils of having a garden and not taking care of it. I intend to find those videos and enjoy the companionship 🙂

For a garden is a terrible thing to have… when you don’t have time or money or both. Not that I am complaining much, as I still enjoy having said garden. It just doesn’t look good and that brings me down sometimes. There are a few plants that take over. Weeds, we call them. Pests, really. Invaders, you could say. Wandering jew, orache, bindweed, kikuyu. They make the others look tame by comparison. The other weeds, you see, once you pull them out they’re dead, dead, dead. Not so these ones, unfortunately. Deep under your reach some defeat you with taproots the size of melons. Across the entire garden some defeat you with stolons and nodes and roots that travel to the ends of the world it seems… definitely to the end of your patience! A single fragment left behind and in one season it is back to how it was before you spent that afternoon kneeling and cursing under the blazing sun.

You develop odd types of pleasure it seems. Measuring kikuyu after you pull it out. Discovering moist soil teeming with insects right under that mat of wandering jew that made a tropical looking corner under that bush. Yanking orache out of olive trees or digging that tap root out . Sitting down and willing yourself to patience while you unwind bindweed from your other plants (can’t yank it out, you break everything!).

Mulching would help… except you don’t have anything to mulch with. An animal would help (even benefit from orache and kikuyu)… but you don’t have it. Planting other things would help motivate you to weed more often – if you have the plants to plant there and the time to weed. Frustrating, it was! I have stopped weeding just for the sake of weeding (as in, appearances). I will weed if I want to plant there something. Most of the time it is a bush I have rescued or has been given to me.

I have grown quite fond of my overgrown jungle… most of the time. Of course, then I visit a well tended garden and I don’t feel so good. I take comfort from counting the perrenial edibles currently growing amongst the weeds. In a couple of years there should be enough to show for the work done, an orchard is beginning to take shape. Good signs are here: a handful of blueberries, apples and grapes and peaches ripening, five cherries, lemons, strong healthy growth on the loquat we saved, flowers on the feijoas, the scent of lemon verbena peeking through the towering Jerusalem artichokes, the wavy fronds of asparagus, the rambling fragility of Cape gooseberries.

I have also relented and started buying flowers. A bit of care and the pot-bound yellowing wreck the shop put on special 6 for 1 dollar starts to glow in shades of rainbows. I have seen more bees and bumblebees this year than in all the years before combined! Maybe in a couple of years, when I have planted more flowers, a hive would not come amiss nestled amongs the fruit trees.

One hopes… and weeds! 🙂

Dream

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I was talking with a group of colleagues about money. Although the discussion was fairly specific I (of course!) managed to generalize and pontificate on said subject 🙂

Aside for pet hates of mine (reliance on banks exclusively, for example) we were touching on subjects like values, attitudes, ideals and frustrations linked to financial matters. So, being in an environment where things will be taken at face value rather than judged and found lacking, I expressed a dream of mine about the uncomfortable issue of social welfare. While I am repulsed by the idea of people as economic units and I regard a good life as a right, welfare dependency is something I struggle with. I cannot see an easy way out in real life though, so this dream of mine is so called because it has nothing to do with life in a “civilized” society.

It seems to me that welfare dependency stems from a separation between the person and the society it belongs to. If you have to go to a government department to beg for your daily bread and prove to said department that you are worthy of living… well, I know I would rebel (privileged, much?). Because proving myself worthy is a personal thing, it is private, to be shown off only if I choose to do so, not as a matter of public (open plan work space) record. And proving the worthiness of one’s life seems insulting, notwithstanding “why should I pay for you to be lazy?”.

Add to this that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are raised in an environment that has no work ethic, it takes time, patience and investment later for you to learn this. Who will teach you though? And how will you keep learning if this has never been of value to you?

So if at a family level you’re missing something and the societal level is way too alienating, then the answer seems to be somewhere in the middle.

The short of it is that I believe in the small community as the basis of society, with all of its wonderful qualities and outstandingly flexible drawbacks. As expressed in another post, community is a limited number of people living and working in the same place/area/environment. It usually includes entire families as opposed to individuals. The community feels (and I believe should be) responsible for its people. Of course, responsibility has to be matched with an equal amount of power.

So if a youngster is born in a nuclear family without much work ethic he/she may live in a community where his auntie and his cousin and his friends work hard for what they have. When this young one is of an age to work or create (and no, I don’t mean 18!) the community is responsible for offering him those opportunities and mentorship… and the payment for it, too! The community is also entitled to withhold payment while still providing a roof over the head and simple food on the table if the youngster would rather do something else than work or create – for the benefit of the community.

It is one thing for a case manager at social welfare to say “your benefit will be cut because you haven’t attended enough work seminars”. It is a completely different thing for your nephew to say “sorry, mate, no money for you until that garden is spic and span”. Same result, if you will…

Now how are we going to clarify creativity?

Study

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If you had more money than you needed, what would you do? Invest, travel, give to charity, buy a house/land/car/motorbike etc?

All of the above have gone through my mind. And I would probably do it, too! But now, listening to medieval choral music (it’s that type of evening…there was rock happening in the morning 😛 ) I can say that if money was no issue then the best I can spend it on is study.

Yup, I would go to university again in a heartbeat. And get a private tutor for some things. Let’s see…I would start with herbalism. It’s not difficult to find recipes, what herb, what method, what affliction. Time is of essence, as most of the herbs need to grow, then be steeped, extracted or worked for long periods of time. Waiting, patiently? Me? 🙂 Well, yes, and especially if someone could explain and walk me through interactions with other medications, what to use for holistic care (one herb/tisane per affliction is awesome, except that most don’t have one affliction… so which herbs interact better with others in order to provide the maximum of benefit)… these are not necessarily things you easily find in the myriad books in the library.

Next would be music lessons, for both voice and at least one instrument. Hmm… guitar? Piano? Marimba? Shepherd’s pipe? And the voice? Choir or solo? Classical or modern? No matter, as long as there is a person there to teach me. This is not something you go to school for, private all the way 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against performing, show-off that I am.. but I do prefer to know what I am doing!

Right, anthropology next, and here private tutor is not what I want. I want to be in the same place with others who can discuss the subjects, debate, maybe argue and therefore allow the subject to grow and stretch the mind, encompass humanity, put it into perspective, drag it down from the pedestal people themselves have put it on.

What else, I wonder? Ah, of course, astronomy. A short amateurish course to begin with, mainly because I have never been able to figure out even the most famous constellation when looking at the night sky. I am looking but I cannot see… what type of blindness a multitude of stars has put over my questing eyes?

And, of course, languages. At least a few of them, with private tutors. I am good with languages, which is why class setting is not my favourite. Someone to teach me the basics, then point me to children’s books or chicklit so I can get the conversation going properly, someone to converse with afterwards.

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Some cooking classes would not come amiss. And drawing and painting, too. Restoring old furniture. Weaving and spinning wool. Sericiculture (better get that mulberry planted then!) and apiculture. Carpentry. Making jewelery. Ah, so many possibilities… and that’s it, you know? It’s narrowing down what I want, acknowledging my luck that I was born in my age, when I can actually do it, there is nothing really stopping me… even money is not a real obstacle for most of the above. Time is though… or rather the perception that I don’t have time. Finding the right persons from whom I can learn… that is probably the biggest obstacle; as an adult student I am not likely to put up and shut up, I can vote with my feet 🙂

Shall I vote and do it?