I spent two and a half hours this morning digging soil, clearing stones and removing roots. The gardening aspect is not really what I want to talk about. Imagine that, me not sticking to the topic at hand. It was as my hands were literally in the soil that fragments from assemblies at primary school started to come back to me. I went to a Church of England primary school called Benhilton and there was quite a lot of religion taught to us.
It has been a long time since I have really thought about it. Even now, as I write this, I am struggling to remember the things we were taught. In my defence, it was thirty odd years ago. I remember something about ‘honest toil being good for the soul.’ I know I have most likely got this wrong, so please feel free to correct me. The sentiment of it really got to me today. There I was, kneeling in mud, my hands black from the soil and I felt this weird sense of freedom and happiness come over me.
I am not really a religious man and it has been a while since I considered myself even spiritual. My spiritual upbringing was a bit of a hodge-podge. I was sent to a Church of England School but not christened. My Dad’s best friend was Jewish and I loved to hear him talk about Judaism. It is also how I learnt the words ‘smuck’ and ‘schmendrick’ both of which are words that taste good to say them. I read some about Buddhism and a lot more about Taoism, but I have to confess, mostly ‘The Tao of Pooh.’ Yup, if I am going to have spiritual awakenings, I prefer them to come from a fictional bear with a penchant for honey. I also learnt a lot about Hinduism from Gauri and she jokes that I know more about than she does.
For all this, I do not know what to believe or if I believe in anything. I try and stay to the maxim ‘Be a good person, do not hurt others and do your best to make the world a better place.’ I am hoping this is good enough.
So, what did I feel when gardening today?
It made me want to build a house. Like in American films when you see the wooden timbers go up and form the frame and then it gets put together, but all of it done by me. I do not know where the hell that came from, but I still feel it. How great would that feel to achieve? It was something about the work that I was doing and the Bruce Springsteen song I was listening to when these thoughts struck me.
I have linked the song as it will make what I am trying to say make more sense.
I thought, this work hurts no-one. I am not selling dodgy pensions or out to scam people with get rich schemes, nor am I politician. The only things affected by my work were three worms I saw and they didn’t seem to mind at all. It was honest work and I felt better for doing it. This is a big deal for me. I would not want to get rich knowing I had screwed people over to get there.
It was also humbling in a good way. I was not too good to get down in the dirt and did not see it as being beneath me. I liked that. I would never want to be a person who thought that they were too good for anything and that certain work should be left to lesser people.Where is the humanity in that way of thinking?
Most of all, it was the peace I felt when doing it. It was work that I am happy and grateful to get. It is work that earns me money and is getting me fit at the same time. Yup, I am going to be pretty ripped soon. It is work that I do not have to think through. I dig. I pick up stones. I pull up roots. No performance review. No supervision. No endless forms to fill out. It was simple, and I think there is something of the divine in simplicity.
Which seems a perfect note to end on.
Take care buddies,