Lions, Fishing and Home Improvement

At El Palmeral I have the largest man-shed in the world – Tim ‘the Toolman’ Taylor from “Home Improvement” would be completely at home, say this,  and probably build cars there.

For me, it’s been so satisfying recycling the ‘stuff’ that was left in the shed. Old pallets have become compost bins, rusty bolts have fixed chairs and tables (after soaking in Coca-Cola – what must it do to stomach linings?). Different discarded pieces of wood have become shelving and various pieces of furniture have been ‘born again’ back in the house, their scratches and bumps healed, the memories thrown into the deep ocean of forgiveness, with a sign that says ‘NO FISHING’ (See – Elim Pentecostal Darlington 1973 day-glo posters left their mark!).

One of my favourite returned prodigals is our antique globe, I guess it’s a reproduction, and no, the top doesn’t come off to reveal bottles of gin and whisky inside. It just – swivels – like globes do, and displays a cartography that I guess is from the 16th or 17th century.

The land shapes are interesting, to say the least, and there are quite a few land masses, given the caption “TERRA ICOGNITA” – Latin for “Unknown Land”. We refer to that time in history as ‘The Age of Discovery” during which Europeans sailed the globe, gradually piecing together the jigsaw that makes up the world map we know today. Apparently both Roman and Medieval maps used “HIC SVNT LEONES”, literally “Here are Lions” to denote unchartered land.

I started to ponder how much of my own life, personality, purpose, soul is “Unknown Land”, I can see it on a superficial level, as tackling home improvement is not exactly unchartered, but certainly unfamiliar territory for me. So is that how we do it? Take up a new hobby, enjoy new experiences, struggle with new challenges, look for a new ‘buzz’ to find ‘our true selves’?

Somehow I don’t think so, firstly, there’s just not enough time to do that, and secondly, I don’t know about you, but my experience is that I’m left with a feeling of, ‘right, what do I do next’ – somehow that doesn’t complete the map.

I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s “No man is an island” a collection of short, spiritual essays that often (but not always) revolve around monastic life – and who we are when we are alone.

Several quotes stand out, one being “The whole problem of our time is not lack of knowledge but lack of love” which is so true in the age of the Internet, but it was the next one that really spoke to me:-

We cannot master everything, taste everything, understand everything, drain every experience to its last dregs. But if we have the courage to let almost everything else go, we will probably be able to retain the one thing necessary for us -whatever it may be. If we are too eager to have everything, we will almost certainly miss even the one thing we need.

Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the ‘one thing necessary’ may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.“

I need to find the ‘one thing necessary’ – it’s easy to answer superficially I guess, but I suspect the journey towards ‘one thing necessary’ may contain some of the answers themselves. The problem is, when I plan the route within myself, I see the land that says “Here are lions” and decide to stay where I’m ‘safe’.

Maybe many of us need to consciously decide to embark on an “Age of Discovery”, to challenge our assumptions about ourselves – otherwise we might be happily going through our whole lives believing that our world is flat, and miss the Big Picture completely!