Yesterday we visited a cousin my partner had not seen for quite a few years: I had never seen her except at her mothers a week before. In their youths they were close and recent moves had opened up the chance to renew the friendship. She is a friendly person with two children. More than that though her house and garden are filled with objects, none of which came as a set so each item is unique unto itself. What made it astonishing though was that each object, chair or table was beautiful in its own right and sat harmoniously with its fellow artifacts or pieces of furniture even though they were bought at different times and had no obvious match in terms of style or period.
It was one of those very rare occasions when you realise someones sensibility is so refined that they can home in on the natural harmonies of things in a way the more normal of us can never see. She works as a teacher and a councillor. How far these occupations allow her to express what she has inside her I cannot say. What I can say is that what is inside her is beautiful and complete.
Millions, if not billions of us work for corporations. The are limited liability companies: legal entities which have no personality in their own right. The current personality, mission statement and approach to its employees is the product of whatever people inhabit the senior or middle management posts at any one time. Within the company many work in ways which displays limited aspects of who they are.
Watching children we can remark that “she’s a beautiful dancer, and so gentle in the way she interprets the music” or “he paints with such energy and verve that the life of the subject almost leaps off the paper”. In later years these people may well be working in a middling administrative post for some multi-national, or under the control of a self-interested self-made man who “wants the job” done and is not too bothered about how a person feels or is expressing themselves as long as they finish their work. It is part of the well-healed brutality which characterises modern business life.
Inside the man may sigh, but neither his boss or his mortgage is too concerned as long as he puts in the hours and the papers move efficiently across the desk. My heart always goes out to such people, in a way which belies the fact that I am one of them myself. The boss may well have private compassion to which he allows some expression as long as it doesn’t disrupt the smooth working of the office or his career.
So we progress through our lives, initially celebrating our independence and then slowly encircling ourselves with bills and responsibilities until we can hardly remember who we are. Sometimes in the glance of a friend or some extended holiday which involves more than lying on a beach gasping for air we may feel an inner self rise from within that caution which can gradually stifle us. To often when we state or work on an ambition we are not aware of the costs our spirit will pay. The alienation so many feel from the rhythm of life and the pure joy of being bares sad testimony to this situation.
We all know some middle age man, who works in some faceless role who has a trumpet in the attic of his house. Asked about it he will say, “I used to play a lot when I was young”. Perhaps he might go as far as raising it to his lips to blow a few rusty notes out into the room before smiling ruefully and saying “It’s a long time since I played”. To him, me and many like us I pray that we don’t give up on ourselves. Beneath the suite or smart executive skirt a secret garden dwells. Water it occasionally and be astounded at what you find within.