Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The weight of too much liberty"

I've been working on the same post for days and can't seem to finish it properly. Maybe this is one of those interactive things that needs your comments to be "done."
"During a furlough in North America, one of [the] children said at a family reunion potluck, 'I sure will be glad to get back to Africa where we just have to eat manioc.'"--The More With Less Cookbook
"One year the only material I had to make costumes was from a pile of old black Navy uniforms. I told the children they could be anything they wanted to be as long as it was something black."--Amy Dacyczyn, The Tightwad Gazette
Jennifer Duenes (Life from the Roof) wrote a guest-blog post last week on Money-Saving Mom. (Her blog is about "her insights from life in Uzbekistan and tips on making the most of your resources in high-cost urban areas.")

This is the part that struck me:

"....when I returned for the first time to the US after my initial 2 years in Uzbekistan. I went into Wal-Mart to buy shampoo, and ended up just standing there for a few minutes staring at an entire aisle of shampoo.

"I was so overwhelmed, I ended up just turning around and walking out without buying anything. While it was hard at times to be deprived of access to certain products in Uzbekistan, I now understood what Wordsworth commented on in his poem Nuns Fret Not at their Convent’s Narrow Room. Instead of being limited by what we cannot buy, perhaps sometimes we should look at having too many liberties as a weight, and at our limitations as true freedom."

What homeschooler hasn't had a similar reaction in a conference vendor hall, or when confronted with one of those telephone-book-sized American curriculum catalogues? (The Big Book of Home Learning was called that for a reason.) I feel the same way in those 100-variety coffee shops: I just ask for their "regular coffee." (Side note: don't ask for that in the donut shop, though, unless you want coffee with cream and sugar. I once really messed with a Tim's cashier's head by asking for a "regular coffee without anything in it.") (For a 2008 look at a Yikes shopping trip, read Black Friday on Beck's Bounty. Photos, too.)

Recently I finished reading Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede, a novel about Benedictine nuns set during the 1960's, when their lifestyle became less cloistered and their veils were updated with front hair showing. ("Who knew that Sister X had red hair??") The older nuns who refused to go along with the modern "dishtowel" veils had their reasons: the completely-covered habit kept them from having to spend any time at all worrying about what their hair looked like. Another point made in the book is that 19th-century English nuns had to fight in the first place to be allowed to be cloistered; it was seen as a privilege.

And what more can I add? The theme for our first week of Advent will be Simplicity--an attempt to keep from buckling under the weight of too many choices...too much liberty.

Your turn...


Sebastian said...

I totally understand being overwhelmed with modern Western options. When we came back from Germany, I found it was quite hard to shop in the large military commissary near our house. It was so big that I'd get tired just going up and down all the aisles. And the choices that I had to make. But the worst was the bread aisle. Seven different kinds of 12-Grain Bread. Sour dough bread flown in from San Francisco. Hamburger buns with and without sesame seeds. Way too much choice (and ironically none of the good European bread that I really wanted).

Leslie said...

This is a good, thoughtful post.

I have often contemplated how my choices, and especially the choices that are limited by finances, time or some other thing can either be the source of deep riches waiting to be mined or the source of discontent.

I am learning to appreciate those areas where my choices are limited, and I think they are used by God to keep me focusing on what is most important for me and mine.

val said...

This is a deep topic that leaves me pondering. I have come to believe that one of our greatest tasks as homeschoolers is to learn how to handle freedom. If we can learn, alongside our children, how to make wise choices about how to spend our time and resources, what a great lesson we will have learned! I think that is why parents who have their kids in school often feel frazzled during school breaks. They haven't learned how to handle freedom. Afterall, their days are structured to such a high degree, one can feel overwhelmed by the options of so much freedom. I think I may have gone off on a tangent. I do apologize if I am not tracking with your original point.

Mama Squirrel said...

Well, you're making sense to me! Thanks for all your comments.