This morning after coming back from the gym I took a fourth of a pill I take occasionally. I forgot how it made me drowsy. I seldom take prescription medicine. When I do a smaller dose often works better. I’ve been dragging myself since then, almost scraping myself off the floor.
In depth psychology, an enclosed four-square space can symbolize the soul, the total space in time occupied by a life. Three, like any odd number, is in transition; four is the manifestation or incarnation of the three e.g. the Trinity in Christianity that gives rise to the world, our world.
When I was in Israel I remember our Israeli Arab guide pointing out to us the difference between Jewish and Arab homes. Jews tended to live in concrete high-rise apartments, Arabs in low, one or two-story houses with a yard around them. After I came back to the States and did some more reading I wondered if the difference between Jewish and Arab domiciles didn’t spring only from cultural differences. The Arabs were there before the influx of most of the Jews now living in Israel. The newly arrived Jews were settled on apartment buildings built on hills overlooking the existing Arab villages.
Arabs are also largely third-world people whereas many Jews came from Europe and brought with them Western sensibility. They also often came with more money. I wonder if the difference in housing speaks to a difference wrought by socio-economic factors rather than by cultural preferences or traditions.
In American cities many live in high-rise towers. You see this in Manhattan where most people live with no access to yards or gardens unless they lived in expensive penthouses. Those with a bit of enclosed yard are fortunate indeed but for many people in Manhattan lives are spent on concrete and asphalt. I wonder if this has any effect on how they view the world. Do they forget they came from dirt (as the Bible teaches)? I often see American parents throw away food because their child had dropped it on a clean, newly mopped or vacuumed floor. People and earth are of the same planet; they must not come together as oil and water don’t come together.
My friend, Ingrid, lived in Chicago before moving to Manhattan in the 1980s. In Chicago she shared a house with a couple of women friends. They had a backyard. In Manhattan she lived in tiny studios until she earned an apartment at Stuyvessant Towers between 14th and 22nd Streets. She used to have a car that she parked under the tower for almost the same amount as her rent. When she had an accident that resulted in back problems she let the car go. Her life has never been the same.
I think we need direct contact with the earth to keep our sanity. When we live separated from nature by pavement and floors we forget we are part of nature. We begin to live exclusively in our heads. Whatever physical activities we manage to eke out we do on asphalt or more often on floors clear above the ground. The city has parks but how many people take advantage of them to walk on the grass and touch tree branches, reach their arms around the trunks of trees, sit under a tree’s midday shade or dangle sunburned (not machine-tanned) legs into the green waters?
When I went back to the Philippines for the first time I was struck by the stark contrast between American residential areas and those in the Philippines. In America you seldom saw naked earth. What is not built upon or planted with trees or shrubs is covered by a mantle of grass. Lawns are such an essential part of American landscapes that tending one has evolved to a high science.
In the Philippines gardens are planted in the midst of naked earth. People get their hands soiled with dirt when they work in the garden. They get their feet muddied walking after a rain. But there people’s houses are often surrounded by tall fences whereas in America people’s lawns merge with the neighbor’s on either side. Sometimes a solitary post will suggest the boundary or two posts suggest a gate. The two cultures live so differently vis-a-vis nature, vis-a-vis other people. Industrialization has raised us off the soil and earth. We’re people living by our wits, most days just inhabiting mind-created universes.
So in America most people put out their garbage to be picked up by strangers in giant compacting trucks. They are carried away to huge dumps and landfills that make those areas uninhabitable for decades because of the amount of synthetic wastes our lifestyles produce. In Third World countries like the Philippines and Israeli Arab villages people still have direct access to the earth. Like it or not they have a relationship with Mother Nature and this must make a difference in how they live, in how they perceive themselves, especially in how they locate themselves in the totality of it all.
Many years ago I started a compost heap in back of the condo. My garden was still in its infancy then and I had lots of plant scraps. The compost was coming along – it was not smelling because I was careful to toss fresh soil over whatever I threw in the pit – but my next-door neighbor, John, complained. He said the compost attracted ants. Ants are nature intruding into our environmentally sealed, sterile worlds where nothing can survive except for human mutants.
I had to get rid of the compost and did as the Romans did in Rome: I put out my garbage on the curb every Thursday for strange men to pick up. I don’t know where they end up and I couldn’t care less that I don’t know. What a life! What a hideous!