Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Epicurean epiphanies

Dear Bloggie...I was preparing some guidelines today for the launch of our first corporate blog (yes, another innovation led by moi!)then..an OH-OH moment: I am NOT practising the REGULAR updates I am preaching! Lol...seeing this is a personal blog and not a professional one, I guess...so what? If anything, it proves that I have a REAL life that's full and rich in experiences and the occasional insights!

Talking of busy lives, the long weekend had even me throwing in the towel! Cold and damp after a week of pouring rain and splashing about with work, kids,interviews (been headhunted for a big job..watch this space and fingers crossed please!) trains, planes and automobiles , I cancelled a date to the opening of the Sydney Film Festival and a cocktail party involving Jennifer Arniston (Cub2 was devastated that I could say NAH!), opened a bottle of red, slow-roasted some lamb shanks for the three of us and just watched movies on the telly (the latter being the TRULY abnormal behaviour for me but the kids loved it so much!)

Now...to most people this may not sound like a big deal. But for me it was. Because life, and doing things, is my drug. Packing every moment full of experiences and hating just sitting around aimlessly. Yet, what's the point if you don't have time to savour them? And therein the aha-moment!

As the weekend unfolded, I ended up musing late on Saturday night with a friend on the art of reflection...and he hinted that perhaps I kept myself perennially busy to avoid reflection. Well, truth is I do it to STOP the reflection!I think its quite pointless to dwell too much in the past, and being a bit of a thinker, I can at times live in my head and go around and around in circles and beat myself up for all the mistakes I have made! But that does not change a single thing, so instead, I busy myself with ambitious projects, wild escapades, exotic travel and extreme adventures!

Avoidance behaviour? Pro-activity? Whatever! I have to stop piling the plate so high and savour and taste every morsel that's on my tongue RIGHT NOW!...let in linger, roll it around, explore its tastes, textures, subtleties and smells.

Which brings me to one of my favourite subjects: Epicuros and his musings on The Art of Happiness. I dont know whether its the glorious pink sunsets from my kitchen window or the full moon dancing on the bay across my balcony, or reclaiming 40 minutes a day because I am not sitting in traffic jams, but I have time again for simple pleasures: cooking, friendships and conversation.

Simple is the operative word. So often, Epicurean philosophy is misused in the context of gluttony, excess and elaborate feasts. It is everything but.

I pondered this very thing yesterday morning as I accidentally stumbled into a shop where many millions of dollars trade hands in the pursuit of culinary perfection.

It looked like the tables at my garage sale when I moved house after 18 years of rampant consumerism. Special gadgets and tools, exotic cake tins, Arzberg china, Madeira linen and crisp Damask, Italian clay pots and German cookware, Waterford Crystal and Swiss knives...the United Nations of Quality was represented row upon row, shelves from floor to ceiling.

My hand reached towards an unusual vase, but it stopped mid-air. Later it reached for a pepper mill with lights and bells and dancing Zulu warriors (just kidding!)...and stopped again...because flashing in my mind's eye were those garage sale tables when I moved...groaning under "must have" things used maybe five times in 18 years (some not even once!)...and in the end, it has zero value or even negative value if you have to pay someone to remove it to the garbage tip!

I had an epiphany in that shop. I realised that our propensity to consume STUFF must be directly related to the amount of personal space at our disposal. We could limit our impact on the planet by limiting the footprint of our dwellings and making everyone carry everything up at least three flights of stairs!

It sure has curbed my consumption pattern, yet my life is more interesting for it. My barebones dollhouse kitchen has turned out more gourmet feasts in 6 weeks than the previous 6 years, with no compromise to quality nor diversity! For me, the challenge to create something magnificent with bare necessities is true mastery and art...and therein lies the thrill! The thrill comes from the size and complexity of the challenge conquered.

Forgive me if I shoot across to Sunday night's rugby game to reinforce this point. As usual, we caught the Special Events bus to and from the game...but on the way home, in spite of a great night out and 39-3 victory for the Wallabies, there was no sense of cheer on that bus, no animated chatter, no drama, unlike this morning after the Socceroos victory over Japan...So, my insight of the day is that:

Conquest and victory in sport, as in cooking, and anything else i can think of including love, is only sweet if gained as a result of dogged determination and a struggle to conquer big and real challenges.

I hope Cub1 reads this blog and remembers that for the challenges she faces in conquering her new environment! (Ooops, violated guideline 2: BLOG is too long!)

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