It came to me, not so long ago, while I was thinking and walking along the path behind our cottage, that the routine, ordinary bits and pieces of our lives are sacred chores. Those boring bits between our holidays and family get-togethers and meetups with friends are as sacred as our visits to church. And those tedious pieces of days where we shop and clean and care and get miserable are also as sacred as our visits to church. I said to myself as I walked: If I ever write a book about my spiritual journey, (something I’ve wanted to do for some time now), I shall call it Sacred Chores.
I imagine God (the term I use for ultimate reality), shouts down to us when s/he see us living our dualistic lives, ‘religion is your life,’ s/he says. I imagine s/he grows frustrated as we try to pack our kindliness and compassion into increasingly shorter interactions with the official church. Can we develop a closeness to the sacred while caught up in the drudgery of the bits and pieces of our lives? I think we can.
If I were writing the book Sacred Chores, I would use the example of Japanese Kintsugi in the introduction. This is a philosophy that developed in 15th century Japan. Kintsugi means joining with gold. When a pot, for example, is broken it should not be discarded but glued back together – in this case using gold – thus emphasising the bits and pieces that once was the pot.
A pot is not really a pot until we say it is. A life is not really a life until we describe it as one. Most of life is made up of the bits and pieces of pretty random things we glue together into narratives which are themselves glued together into lives. The Sacred is gold.
I know it’s difficult, to look through hopelessness and see hope and to look through meaninglessness and see meaning but it’s just a question of glue; what you use to hold it all together. Use the Sacred. Don’t listen to the sad folk who’ll tell you there is no hope or meaning, what do they know. The greatest scientists themselves know bog all. It’s true. The meaning of life is still up for grabs. And don’t wait for some holy person to bless you and take away your sins because, to be frank, the pot fell off of its own accord, nobody pushed it.
We don’t have wholeness innate inside us, we are just bits and pieces waiting to be put together. You can put yourself together with ordinary secular glue or you can use gold. The cost is pretty much the same.