Whilst cruising the net for five rhythms dance clubs, a work colleague discovered one of the teachers was a member of the PADO. This turns out to be the name of the Professional Association of De-clutterers & Organisers. Whether or not this turns out to be a real or a pseudo organisation, is by the by, but it says much about our contemporary values. That we have the spare money (even in these hard times) to employ someone to 'be Mother' and tidy up after us. I shake my head in disbelief that people need to seek professional advice on how to clear out cupboards, rearrange their drawers and colour coordinate their bookshelves. It seems sad that they don't feel confident to do it for themselves, or heavens, find their own style and way of organising a room. The predominant style is for clean lines and unobstructed colour planes of walls and floors. All our homes have to look like photos from Elle Deco, where every sign of habitation has been expunged, As if human life has either been 'species cleansed' or decimated in some apocalyptic plague. Perhaps bodies would just make you realise how inhumane these modernist pig pens are to live in. Why do we should spend inordinate amounts of time conforming our aesthetic sensibilities to a prescribed design and colour scheme? This seems a complete waste of money and creativity, if your front room ends up looking like everyone else's, completely devoid of life and character. Homes should say something about the personalities of those that inhabit them. Individual interests, preferences, tastes, habits and eccentricities should be celebrated, not designed out of existence. Does this mean that peoples personalities, like their homes have also been neutered?
All this comes more vividly to mind as David and I continue to prepare for our move. Two weeks and counting. We've sort of gone through the preliminary purge phase, which is easy, as the more obvious dodos are spotted, then ditched or recycled. I think, at least for myself, there is another de-cluttering phase when a deeper questioning goes on. It sounds more like a conscience, asking 'Why does this have to stay ? What purpose does this serve? Is it need, ego or sentiment that's making me keep this?' There is a sense when I chuck things out at this stage,of not only being liberated from the weight of my possessions, but from how they designate the boundaries of my identity. I want to be free from them telling me who I am, whilst at the same time needing them to define a specific sense of myself. Even the chucking out can perform this function, I am the sort of person who throws away things I'm fond of on principle! I can well understand why monastics from a broad range of traditions, reject, to varying degrees, personal possessions. Firstly, because it does simplify life considerable, and second, the removal of material possessions means we stop this acquisitive compulsion to define who we are from what we buy or own. It also enables us to begin sensing 'who we are' from 'how we are' with our fellow beings. Possessions keep us Self focused, removing them keeps us Other focused. It could still be argued that even this Other focus, remains another form of externalised self-definition. But it would appear, at least, to hold the seeds of self-transcendence. Other people can't be owned and possessed in quite the same way, they talk back, wont be controlled, are contrary, are not like us, and simply wont play the game. In our relationships with others we have to go beyond our selfish needs to some extent, or die a frustrated ,isolated and angrily embittered person.
A Swiss archetypal psychologist at a seminar I attended many years ago, once said that the disease a society most fears, reflects the predominant ethos or problem of that society. The disease of choice might change from one era or decade to another. In one era it might be Cholera, another Tuberculosis, Cancer, Aids. If this is the case then today, though its not a disease as such, more a predicament, it might be obesity. This is over consumption taken to its furthest extreme, becoming an addictive compulsion, beyond all possible limits or control. Eating as obssession. Obesity affects not only the quality of the life lived, but also threatens its quantity. Its declared repeatedly in the news - control obesity or it will be the death of you. Pretty much the same message as that of climate change.
Another official body I came across recently was the ESA, which stands for the European Snack Alliance. Basically, this is just junk food producers that make Pringles, Walkers and Pot Noodle, getting together to fight health legislation, by upping the nutritional emphasis on their snacks. Ignore the high levels of fat, sugar, salt or additives folks, just look at the extensive list of trace vitamins. This could indicate that, similar to climate change, in the face of commercial pressures, there really is no hope. David joked recently that the governments motto should really be LET THEM GET FAT, because as folk become more obese the less able they are to have effective sexual intercourse. This might solve both the population problem, the burdensome cost to the health service, and over consumption, all within the space of a 'Dough Baby' Generation. Hmm, its a tempting idea!