Most little girls want to be princesses. I didn’t. I can remember being a small girl, and rather horrified by the idea of aspiring to be a spoiled brat who gets married off to some prince where that’s supposed to be your life. I wanted to be Peter Pan, or Maid Marion. I wanted to have adventures, and aside from sitting round waiting to get rescued, princesses were the object of the quest, not the person on it. What troubled me most was the knowledge that princesses have servants to do everything for them. Even as a child, it seemed to me that wasn’t luxury, but a loss of freedom.
The kind of power and influence money brings has an unreality to it. The more we seek to ‘free ourselves from drudgery’ the more removed we become from the simple reality of existing, and there is much to miss out on. Yes, we can own things by buying them, but that is a hollow possession and nothing compared to the kind of ownership that comes from doing. There is a reality to taking care of things, to cleaning, mending, hanging washing on the line. If Harper Collins decide to offer me an obscene advance for my work, I’m still going to be doing my own cleaning and taking care, because it grounds me, and I know it is good for the soul.
If we put work of inherent value first, and work of a monetary value second, everything changes. There are a lot of people whose jobs really don’t add anything to the world, folk who make money by moving it around on paper (costing others a fortune every now and then). There are industries devoted to selling is yet more useless, pointless tat. While money is treated as the most important thing, such jobs seem to have a justification, they give buying power, status and so forth. You too can be a princess and have some other Cinderella to sweep your floors.
When we prize skill, and value the things we can do for ourselves – not for what it costs or saves, but for the independence and ownership it brings – how different the world becomes. Someone decided that the best sort of work doesn’t get your hands dirty and allows you to pay other people to deal with our basic needs. We want to get away from the cleaning of home and clothing, from the preparation of food and the cleaning that generates, from all the things that are ‘dirty’. Who dictated that as being the right way to live, and why do we persist in swallowing it without a second thought?
Dirt is real. Dirt is life. Dirty work is quite often a lot more useful and sustainable than the meaningless jobs we are convinced are worth millions. We should be focused on the work, and innovation that adds beauty, viability, and quality to life.
Taking care of a thing creates relationship. Paying someone else to do it, does not. I know my kitchen floor well, I scrubbed it this morning. It knows me. In that process, I found the material for this blog, and the memory of my childhood self, appalled by princesses. This house fits comfortably around me and feels like a refuge, because I give it my time, energy and love. Money is no substitute for that. The same is true of human relationships – you can buy your way through them and use cash as a substitute for care, plenty of people do. That costs far more than it gives. Sure, you can pay someone else to raise your children, but in what sense will they be your children? Pay someone else to do your garden, your cleaning, and you lose some of your own relationship with the place. Spirit is not much affected by the spending of money. Tangible actions born of love are what count.
I’m not a princess, I’m a peasant. Always was and always will be. I’m proud of that, and I like the life it gives me.