21 Mar 2016

Little People, Big Hearts

I have a problem with today's society. There is an urge for 'being somebody', for being noticed, being with it, breaking it, making it, becoming famous. What rigs it even more is that the quest for be(com)ing somebody is defined by one parameter - the popularity contest. It is driven by celebrity culture, inflated by social media (creating the ephemeral buzz and elusive cool factor) and misguided by the reality TV agenda (whereby we are sold the idea that anyone - just anyone - can be someone). In a world where individuals are hungry for fame and still stand famished as the fame they're craving for does not sustain in the long run, I am wondering: what's wrong with just wanting to be/ stay ordinary - as in not famous - at all?

My great great grandad Ferdinand's village in Picardie, France (pic source)

Ordinary and be of worth, able to accomplish worthwhile things, like a job done right, and be a caring child, spouse, parent, friend, neighbour. To establish and maintain one's value system and cause no harm nor prejudice. Respectful of life in all its representations, down to nature that surrounds us. Give a meaning to life that is not dependent upon external objects.

I have discussed the ordinary folks before now and to me they are anything but ordinary. I hold so much respect for them! No need to be searching high and low for we are surrounded by them in our own lifelines. Take my maternal great great auntie, Claire, an industrious Corsican woman who worked her land her entire life, with nothing like a day in lieu or a pension to fall back on. Take my paternal great grandad, Louis, who started work at 6 years of age down his local textile mill in Picardie, northern France, and later took his leave... to experience the trenches of the Great War. Or how about Louis's dad, Ferdinand, a weaver and family man whose life was stolen off him at 45 on his way to work, engulfed by snow drift in the wee hours of the morning... His tragic passing didn't make the news.

Ferdinand is buried in the Fluquières cemetery (pic source)

Those are ordinary folks, working-class heroes in their own right. They glide in and out of the grand scheme of things, and get no mention in history books. Yet in the great architecture of the universe, those are the artisans who laboured their lives away and still managed to grow spiritually and enrich their communities with a strong set of values. 

Dignity, pride, honour, honesty, respect, grace, compassion, loving care, knowledge, inner wisdom, gratitude, acceptance, resilience, bravery, labour - and an immense strength of character that we, the modern folks in quest of the un-ordinary, should take a leaf out of. These 'behind-the-scenes' folks were used by governments and corporate but still held their all while acting as the cannon-fodder that fuelled the mills during peace and the artillery during war. They still found the time and energy to be creative in their frugal ways, attend to their land agroecologically (way before the term was coined!), make do with little they owned, fix and build things, make life beautiful, feed a family and raise the kids right, go to church, believe in Heaven and redemption and hone their own conception of the after-life, and an earnest belief in the continuous betterment of man.

They lived in rural communities and were in tune with nature that they nurtured, knew every plant, concocted herbal remedies, understood the weather patterns, nature cycles, the seasons and the lunar calendar, and referred to the almanac. They were fabulous story-tellers, and the guardians of family anecdotes, local legends and folk tales. They met up with family and friends in a spirit of conviviality. They always had a bowl of soup at the ready for someone even poorer than themselves who would come knocking on their door. They were hardly school-educated, and so what? They could function autonomously, solidly grounded in common sense and observation. They were entrepreneurial, inventive and never backed down. They lived a simple life but that didn't make them the commoners they may be described as by whoever is hungry for fame and a material lifestyle that ends up tarnishing their soul. For to be rich is to own inner riches, and these cannot be bought.

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