Sitting on a bus one afternoon, truddling through the minor village roads, I was reading a book. This book was being used for a course I have recently finished – which also explains my absence on here. Now you know there are times when you read something that the words hit you right on the nose, this was one such ocassion and I read the section over and over. In an instant, I felt something within me move and the dawning of this moment awoke me with a sense of urgency and fear.
The book in question was Irvin D. Yalom’s “Existential Pyschotherapy ” which was being used to critique a piece of research centering around the lives of older women. However, the significance here was not just older women but everyone in question. This is the following extract quoted in full:
” Imagine a happy group of morons engaged in work. They are carrying bricks in an open field. As soon as they have stacked all the bricks at one end of the field, they proceed to transport them to the opposite end. This continues without stop and everyday of every year they are busy doing the same thing. One day one of the morons stops long enough to ask himself what he is doing. He wonders what purpose there is in carrying the bricks. And from that instant on he is not quite so content with his occupation as he was before.
I am the moron who wonders why he is carrying the bricks.”
The is the opening words of chapter ten exploring meaningless and quotes a man’s last written words before he commits suicide. The words stayed with me all afternoon as I arrived back home. This was the week my daughter was away on her ski trip and the husband was working. I said to myself: “great quiet house, work done for the day. I will put the kettle on have a cuppa and do some reading for an hour.” I arrived indoors. The fire guard was not placed around the fire. The cold ash left exposed, and yes the dog had been in there and the CREAM carpet, bought one year ago by hard work and savings, was black.
“Oh well”, I said as the carpet cleaner and machine came out to clean the carpet for the millioneth time.”No reading now.” As the machine sucked and I scrubbed and sweated; hair all in a mop heap I thought, this is one example of carrying the bricks back and forth, from one end to the other. No progress, no change, a life of chores, no fun, all work and drudgery.
Now of course you could say it was my fault the guard wasn’t up and indeed you would be right. The puppy should have a cage but we can’t bear to do this and she had got out of the kitchen.The husband was helping another soul who needed a hand, took the car and you were left with the bus and the rush to the bus stop. Yes, that is life. But I thought of the many other examples of where I just shift the bricks from one day to the next, and it is endless I know for many of us.
We are an eco family: my husband is the motivating factor on this score and as his wife I try to support him. I am not allowed a dish washer, a clothes dryer. I do have one dryer in the garage but it packed after I used it recently and sneekerly when he was at work and in desperation for the heavy laundry I had to get through. I only managed one pile of clothes and it gave up the ghost because it had not been used for so long. It now just sits out in the garage cluttering up space and broke. I usually have to catch the washing between the gales and showers in the winter on the washing line, that’s if the dog hasn’t ripped the clothes of the line first. My husband has to contend to be fair with the same scenario. I am still waiting for a fence to be put up to stop the dog ransacking the garden; only no-one seem to want to know, even if you ask for quotes and are willing to pay. My husband admits he put bodies back together working for the health-care profession and DIY he is pretty crap at.
There is a never ending stack of laundry drying somehow any how, the never ending pile of dishes. Then there is the cycle of cans to clean, the labels to soak and peel off -my husband like things done this way, rubbish to sort, placing them in their appropriate containers. The fire is on to save the oil and the heating bill. We have one car only and live in the country. I do these things within my relationship to support my husband’s and my own will and drive to save the planet and to please him too. But it is tearing me to hell, working nearly full time and trying to study part-time in the vain hope I just might get somewhere with my own job, and make a difference, before I “peg it.”
One time when we held a master composter event, one little boy flushed part of our button flush down the toilet. Fortunately, we have two loo’s. Good job too as it took endless phone calls, e-mails of photos for the said part , to get wrong parts and plumbers saying they would do the job, before finally after eight months one kind neighbour finally fixed our toilet and got us the right piece.
It just seems like bricks to me all the time.
Then I thought about the bigger picture and started to use my new found interest in philosophy to think this thing through in a wider context. I know why people say that they have had enough of the field they are in and with the person they are dragging the bricks with. In fact, their partner feels like another bloody big brick they are carrying. They say, “I have had enough of this moronic existence. I will find a new field and a new space with a new brick carrier so we don’t just have to shuffle along with the same old bricks any more.”
Only for most of us, who move house to start again or chuck the partner over to find the land of plently with another; after the first flush of excitement finding a new field and a new companion to share the field with; they discover to their horror they are just with the same old load again because nothing really has changed. Because they need to change and take their partner with them.
So, after 16 years of being in a married relationship carrying bricks for a lot of the time, I give my husband the book to look at and say:
“We need to talk about bricks.”
My husband seized on the words, reciting it to his own mother. “I am not carrying your bricks Ma anymore”. There were mini conversations at first but still the procrastination existed and little progress being made. Then the bricks act as fuel and you start turning into a volcano and if you don’t tackle it soon you know you are going to have an eruption. Pompeii will be nothing compared to this outpouring of ash and lava.
The old guy and I are going to have a meeting this week-Friday in fact, when we can be alone to discuss the brick issue. We do hope it will not be another false dawn of change, as we have had many of those too. All, I do know is that this field will not go away and perhaps, that poor soul who died will not have died for nothing, if we read Yalhom and address our own bricks in our own back yard.
Today, I learnt from a work colleaque her friend had committed suicide recently after a divorce, who appeared to be doing well, in a new relationship and having counselling. And last week I learnt an old boss, not much older than I had died of cancer. Life is for living not just in carrying the same old rubbish. We all have repetitive things to do in life and life does not owe us a living either, but the pendulem needs to be swung a little more our way when it comes down to; what the hell are we all doing here and for what purpose. No wonder I need God when I have looked at other alternatives.
Wish us luck and I will keep you posted!