30 September 2013

On Work, Happiness and Simple Living

Bulgaria is a fascinating country where simple living manifests itself in all forms you can think of. Let me tell you what happened to me yesterday.

I was having breakfast in a bright, sunlit room early in the morning. The world seemed to be quite awake but was still concentrated on taking the typical for the season slow and careful steps from cool to warm. Through the window I could see a garden, all green but starting to look a little barren -- the tomato plants were uprooted, as well as the eggplant, the peppers and the beans. And yet the garden seemed boosting with life. I could see the cabbage growing and some pumpkins lying on the ground. The sweet smell of ripe grapes was filling the air. Autumn was coming, she wasn't in a hurry, stepping as slowly as the day but I could feel her right around the corner.
A photo of the garden a few months earlier, when the tomatoes were ripening.

The meaning of work
In that dreamy and quiet moment I read an article from which I learned the meaning of work. I've spent my life thinking I knew what work meant. In the past 7 years, as the economic situation in the world started to change I begun revising my attitude to work, but honestly, I wasn't prepared for the revelation that followed.

I read about a famous fashion model in Bulgaria who was being discussed by her neighbors in the village she was originally from. And so the neighbors said: "She doesn't work". I was a little baffled because it was obvious she worked and was pretty well-paid at that. I read on and here it came again: "She doesn't work because she doesn't need to, she has it all". I was all confused but thinking that it was a kind of figurative speech or something I couldn't quite get. And then again, the same phrase "She doesn't work. She doesn't work the land." At last! The moment I read it I knew,
To work, my friends, is not just to work anything; it means to work the land.
And I thought... but of course, this IS the most important work.

I guess it is civilized life that has taken us away from the land and has dislocated the meaning of work and to some extent this is considered growth and development. But I can see that humanity is waking up to the facts that the exact same civilization that lifted us from the village and made us cultured citizens is to blame for most of the modern vices, problems and sicknesses.

As it often happens, information reaches us at the right time. I remember reading another article a couple of weeks ago backed by scientific research, according to which contact with a soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae triggers the release of serotonin in the brain. This type of serotonin acts on several different pathways including mood and learning. Lack of serotonin in the brains is related to increased anxiety and depression. We ingest the bacteria by breathing or through broken skin.

So basically, the contact with the soil makes us happy. Everything we do as gardeners contributes to happiness. If you have experienced life in the village and life in the city you have hardly missed the feeling but you may have attributed it to the fresh air and the open space.

No wonder Bulgarians consider working the land as the most important work of all. I can see it on their faces - these people are happy when they are close to the land.

Work, my friends, work the land, culture the soil and get your hands dirty; you don't need fancy equipment, you don't even need a large garden. Touch the soil, give life to your own food, or just herbs, let your children play outside in the grass and be happy!

For those of you who don't know, we just moved from Norway to Bulgaria for a year. Follow our adventure in simple living here.

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