Love God, Love Your Neighbor
As I grow more and more into this Celtic Spirituality, I am learning that all things can be made simpler by asking “Does this live out love God / love neighbor?” If it doesn’t then I do not need to step into it or I need to step back from it.
Choosing to live a simple lifestyle and choosing to care for creation are two ways that I show love of God and love of my neighbor. There are many ways that this could be fleshed out, but I find the 4 key words in our study quite helpful. I would add one more word – curious.
Clean: I do love a tidy house. I do not love to tidy the house. This is one of the great contradictions in my life. I have worked hard over the years to follow the “beautiful and necessary” way of thinking about my things. I also prefer things powered by people to electric options. I have a couple of burners, a small oven, freezer, washing machine, and blender. Everything else is manual. I love the quietness it brings to the house. I love the quiet meditation that accompanies the mixing and kneading of bread, the swishing of the broom, the smell of laundry fresh off the clothes line (or in the winter, fresh from behind the wood stove), the sound of fans blowing in the summer, and the crackling of the wood as it heats our home in the winter.
I clean our home, laundry, pets and people with the most natural cleaners I can find. Castile soap, baking soda, vinegar are all that is in my cleaning cupboard. I try to buy natural materials: cotton, wool, linen, leather, wood, stone, glass, etc. These things can be returned to the earth (via our compost pile) at the end of their life.
Clear: I have for many years followed the “one in, one out” rule for my personal possessions. I only buy to replace and I try to buy as ethically and sustainably as I can. When I am “clearing out” a part of our home, I try to envision who could benefit from the item and ask them if they would like it. My last resort is the thrift shop kind of store.
The toughest area for me to keep clear is my bookshelf. I used to have an 18’x13′ room lined with bookshelves. I realized one day that it was a true waste and very selfish of me. So I chose one 3 shelf wooden bookshelf and put only my absolute favorite books on two of the shelves. All others were donated to our small town library. Which incidentally more than doubled the books available to my neighbors. I have to think long and hard before buying a physical copy of a book because it means another book must be taken off the shelf and donated. I do keep one shelf for current study projects. As you can imagine this year it is full of Celtic theology and spirituality books. At the end of the year I will choose a few to keep and the rest will go to my church and the local library. I am sensing a great reluctance to part with any of them. I haven’t had that kind of trouble in many years. It might be that I have to look to my farming section and fiction section to clear some space. Yet, those spaces are full of dearly beloved books.
Compassionate: If I love my neighbor, I will take only what I need and leave plenty for another. I can practice this by leaving the edges our property to the wild creatures. Letting trees grow up to shelter them, planting trees and plants that can feed them throughout the year. I can also practice this by sharing the bounty of my garden with neighbors, parish members, and the community food pantry. It is ok for me to continue to preserve enough of our harvest to feed our family throughout the year because this frees up more money in the budget that can be given to those in need.
We also practice compassion by sharing our knowledge of living lightly with and on the land with our neighbors.
Creative: When we chose to live as simply and eco-friendly as we could, we had to make a lot of creative decisions. If you are going to give up AC, you need creative solutions to stay cool. Same with the electric furnace, the on-demand hot water, etc.
Our recreation hours are also filled with creative endeavors: I knit, crochet, write and read. My children (adults, but still my kids) write, draw, paint and read. My husband paints, draws, and is constantly finding ways to improve our bikes and camping gear. My daughter recently decided to explore paper making. She is a published author and goes through paper in enormous amounts, so she’s trying to find a way to reuse her first drafts as new paper for new first drafts. I decided that I wanted to start playing with watercolor paints as an avenue of expression. As a family we enjoy cooperative card games and watching shows together. My son, with autism, has a love of superhero movies and so we often can be found watching a movie and eating pizza in front of the tv on a Saturday evening. Pizza is one of our exceptions to the Eco-friendly and simple rule. We simply must have pizza!
Curious: I would add curious to the list of four words. Without being curious we would never seek out and explore new ways of thinking and doing things. Curiosity, which is often a gentle push by God, led me to approaching my priest and eventually ended up as a Celtic spirituality worship grant; which led us to Kenneth McIntosh, which led to me finding out about this community and that led to this course and a decision to take the Explorer vows when the time comes.