“Cease being concerned whether you are growing spiritually or whether you are on the right path, or in the right place, or doing the right thing. Cease being self-concerned and simply open your hearts and think of those around you, give to those around you, let yourselves go and enjoy life to the full – life in all its abundance – all its wonder and glory. Give and give all the time, with never a thought of what you can get out of life, for the more you give the more you will receive.”
This is guidance which Eileen Caddy (One of the founders of Findhorn) received while living in a caravan in Findhorn, Scotland. It is one of those beliefs that I believed in wholeheartedly while living in the UK and Ireland! Here in Egypt, however, I struggle to enjoy anything. I don’t worry about whether I am on the right path, I know I am, and I don’t worry about whether I am growing spiritually, I am doing that too! I just wish I could FEEL something, other than – nothing! Well – nothing happy, or excited anyway.
This week, after raising our hens from chicks, we finally got our first eggs. A joyful occasion I would normally be over the moon about. But I feel absolutely nothing! I’ve been thinking about why I feel nothing and I think its because there are so many people waiting for these eggs, and coveting them, that I don’t want to feel happy about them. As soon as I feel anything good here about the animals, or the garden, some bugger comes along and kills it!
All of the women here have been debating when the chickens should be laying. We are looking after 1 point-of-lay pullet for Fatma, four for Kalsoum, and three of ours. The other woman, Eman, has her own hens, which are a little while off laying yet, but that doesn’t stop her coming into the enclosure and pointing out that they should be laying by now, hoping that I will give her some too! She’ll be lucky! This is the same woman we have given three ducks to, and still screams after her daughter, when Omar wants her to keep an eye on the sheep as they graze the grass out front, that she is not a slave to look after anyone’s sheep! Her daughter then has to come indoors. No matter how much we give to that woman she never gives a bean back, but demands her ‘rights’ all the time. So she can say goodbye to any eggs from our hens.
Because children here are brought up with few boundaries, they are brought up to steal and to lie, as if that were a perfectly normal way to live. So they will sneak into the animal pen to look for eggs, while we are upstairs. I have put the hens into the henhouse to make sure they steal nothing. I think that’s the problem. Its very hard to enjoy anything here when you are constantly having to protect it from other people’s lack of morals and covetousness. It takes all the joy out of everything.
Last Tuesday we went to the souk at 6am. I wanted to buy my own veges, now that it is cooler. We had a look at all the sheep for sale and Omar found one that his brother had been looking for, for weeks. He bought the sheep, a lovely little white ram with brown spots. I suggested that Omar build a separate pen for the young rams as the older females eat everything, head-butting the babies out of the way.
It turns out that the older brother was actually buying the ram for the middle brother. The same brother that we had tried to help with sheep twice before and who twice before spent all of his money on rubbish and then had nothing left with which to buy anything. I don’t help him anymore. He sabotages everything. Apart from that he doesn’t speak to me anymore anyway, since I shouted at him to get out of my flat after Omar and I had rescued his wife when he was beating the lard out of her! That was weeks ago, and he still doesn’t speak to me!
Omar’s older brother told him that the ram was for the other brother and then we heard from Mother, that the two brothers had been discussing our new ram’s pen. They thought that we had built it to keep the brother’s ram away from ours so that we wouldn’t have to feed it! Yeah…and that’s why we put our ram in with him, because we wanted to starve it to death! Idiots! I couldn’t figure out why they kept coming to check and why the middle brother kept turning his nose up at it when Omar proudly tried to show him what he’d done.
Mother told Omar later what had been happening, as he was quite disappointed that his brothers were not more impressed with his handiwork. It was only when they saw that we were actually feeding the rams very well that they had to eat their words. But they said nothing to Omar! Its a constant battle, so Eileen’s guidance about give, give and give again doesn’t actually work here very well!
When you give generously here it creates a situation of envy wherein the person you are giving to then feels envious, because you have something to give in the first place! Then they start to try to undermine your efforts or make nasty comments or steal what they want. If you give everything here you end up with nothing! So I think that Eileen’s guidance might have worked well in Scotland, but it sure doesn’t work here.
To give you an example of how people think here, Omar came home from the field where he grows sweet-corn, last week. For three days he seemed to be ignoring me, but I couldn’t figure out why. I always know when he is avoiding being around me as it feels very different to when he is just busy ‘away’.
On this occasion he was spending all of his time in the field or downstairs with his family. It is as if he feels more aligned with his family than he does with me on those occasions. But I did not understand what was going on, as everything was normal here with us.
When I asked him what was going on with him he finally told me that he had overheard a guy in the adjoining field, talking to his neighbour. He was commenting on why Omar was working like a donkey in the field when he was the richest man of all of them! (I wish). There is a belief here that if you are married to a European woman then you are rich, because all of us European women are rich, right?
However, other people thinking Omar is rich because of me, makes him push me away. Maybe he suddenly thought that he should be with a Rich European woman and that farming was a fool’s game? Or maybe is scared of people thinking that he is rich? Here, if you are a ‘normal’ person, i.e. not from a rich family, you have to hide any money you have so that people do not know that you have it! Otherwise they will try to ‘relieve’ you of it!
Even Mother has to hide little bits of fruit, or a few pounds, as her grandchildren, steal everything she has. Very frustrating. I gave her one of my suitcases to lock her stuff away in so that the kids could not get into it. It didn’t stop them throwing it around, however! Little sods!
So, back to Eileen, I think altruism has to be reconsidered here, taking into account cultural beliefs about generosity and wealth. Its a constant battle trying to maintain boundaries here, and I think that that issue is probably one of the most undermining. If people were taught about how to have boundaries, and how to live honest lives, it wouldn’t be so hard!
Where the hell is Moses when you need him?