Little pieces of paper

Little pieces of paper are sprinkled throughout my days.

I tend to note instructions as I have the hardest time remembering them, let alone understanding them. So I write them down on little pieces of paper: a childlike drawn map of the way to an appointment, the exact address, the items I need to get at the market, the recipe for a dish, the instructions for the rice cooker, and so on…

Mind you, I have been making crêpes for decades and yet, every time I make the dough, I have to check my little recipe notebook and keep it open until I am done.

Maybe it is why I prefer to walk quietly in a forest with no particular purpose, rather than go to an appointment; or cook a dish that relies on an acute sense of smell and a love of colours, rather than measurements.

Everyday I use tricks to pretend I can follow instructions, little pieces of paper tucked inside my pocket.

But life… it comes without instructions and I have no pieces of paper to help me. There is no “mode d’emploi.”

So I also use tricks to pretend I am here, that I understand what others tell me, that I relate to them even if I am often baffled by the hollowness of it all. Accompany me one day to pick-up my son from school, and drop on a parents’ conversation, you may then understand. So I just smile, say a few insipid words and check the door to see if my son is coming out. The same applies to most situations.

Some may think it is sad to be so exiled from the world, to fail to be engaged in social niceties. I admit it has its downside.

And yet most of the time, I find that to be absent from the world is a blessing. Silence and solitude are most comforting when you consider the amount of absurdities that surrounds us on a daily basis. My absence takes away nothing from the world; and it enables me to see the details that often go unoticed and, at times, have some of the most enlightened exchanges with perfect strangers or a dandelion. You know what I mean if you have read my poetry.

So I will remain as I am, taking life one day at a time. I will be the one strolling along museum corridors aware of the discreet light emanating from a painting, or walking down the street aware of the sparrows watching me from a balcony, and also the one standing in line at the supermarket aware that the lady in front of me cried all night.

I will remain quiet and will take in the beautiful and the tragic. Being absent allows it to happen. And then I might write about it on little pieces of paper and come here to share them with you.

Kenza.

Slowing down

Yes. Slowing down. Going at a lower pace.

Looking, really looking around us.

And feeling also. Feeling the wind and immensity of the sky upon opening a window. Feeling the emotions, like a dress we smooth discreetly as we stand up.

Walking without running.

Taking in the taste and texture and colors of each dish when eating, and doing the same when cooking.

Listening to the other person, speaking with precision, pondering each word and adding comas.

Slowling down.

It is not to stop time; rather, it is to live it fully.

Kenza.

Let us not fret about the world

“We live no more than one hundred years” wrote Sikong Tu at the start of a poem more than one thousand years ago.

We live but a speck in timelessness.

So, why not let our hair turn white and the soft breeze rustle through our clothes?

Why not let the moss cover the stone?

Let us not fret about the world, shall we?

Kenza.

Inspiration: Sikong Tu (China, 837-908), Tang Dynasty poet, known for his poems and for writing the Chinese poetry manual “The twenty-four styles of poetry.”

Humility

Humility is one of the foundations for achieving peaceful and respectful social relations. The truth is that it has not been mankind’s forte since it came out of the cave; to the contrary, we would not have had so many wars.

What I have observed recently though, is that very few people even mention the word anymore. One has to read old texts of philosophy and wisdom to find references to it.

Today, instead of humility, people talk about loving oneself as a path to happiness. The same way, being humble is seldom taught to children any more, while boosting one’s self-esteem is seen as the sine qua non to success in life. I find it unsettling.

Ego ad infinitum

There is a very thin line between self-worth and arrogance, and perhaps an even thinner one between loving oneself and egotism. Humility however can prevent one from encroaching upon the other.

In my view, humility is a way to step away from oneself, because by being humble, one recognizes his own fallibility. As a result, through “constructive doubt,” as Bertrand Russell once called it, one becomes open-minded, considers the position of others with respect, and hence acts with compassion avoiding the infliction of harm.

Bernard de Clairvaux, the French Abbot better known as Saint Bernard, came to the same conclusion eight centuries earlier when he said, “humility engenders compassion.”

Imagine a world where everyone loves oneself more than others, where they believe their self-worth is such that they can actually achieve anything. Given the current literature on “self-improvement” you may see these as positive qualities. For me, they are simple ego boosters, soothing an artificial sense of self.

Take the same attitude and multiply it, mix it with nationalism and religion and what do you get? – almost always conflict, and most often, violent conflict. Or take a step back and think of harassment at work or on the street, of a despotic parent, or of abuse of authority at a border crossing.

A drop in the ocean

The moment you realize that you are just a “drop in the ocean,” to quote Rumi, you can finally let go of that ego that binds you. Every drop is needed to make an ocean. And when you contemplate the ocean, no drop is larger than another one because they all form one ocean.

Being humble does not mean being less worthy, because the very notion of “worth” becomes irrelevant, and that, you see, is most liberating and does lead to the tranquillity of the heart.

Thank you for reading.

Kenza.


References:
– For Bertrand Russell’s writings on critical thinking, see “Philosophy” (1927), “Portraits From Memory” (1956) and “The Problems of Philosophy” (1973). All of Bertrand Russell’s writings are available on the Internet via the Bertrand Russell Society.
– For Bernard de Clairvaux, see “The twelve degrees of humility and pride,” written in 1127.

Sunday flowers

36817738-59A9-4F3D-AE14-C1B03909C36D

A bouquet of lavender.

I trimmed some of the lavender growing in large pots on the terrace, as temperatures are expected to drop to zero degrees Celcius at night next week. Where I live, lavender flowers all year long but we are almost 2’000 meters above sea level so the nights can be chilly.

I regularly make small, very simple flower arrangements that I place on the kitchen table. It need not be sophisticated, just a few sprigs of herbs or vine flowers or even left over flowers from a withering more grandiose arrangement.

Try it! It will brighten your kitchen or desk, or wherever you chose to place it.

Kenza.

Photo – Kenza.