Strictly for the moths
October 18, 2006
The Bible is a rich source of wisdom on so many subjects. Of course, you have to leave out all the fire and brimstone, the begatting, the walking on water, the Holy Trinity and other such nonsense but what is left is still a lot of fun. I suppose I’m one of those people who don’t feel confident in what they think or feel until they’ve found that some old git who lived 2,000 years ago had the same idea. This recourse to books is not something widely practised out here- most Thai households contain two books, one telling you what to do if you get an insect in your ear, the other some unintelligible homilies by a revered monk. I once spent half an hour expounding some ideas from a book on Taoism that had excited me to a friend who has never been to school and is unable to read or write in any language. She listened patiently and then said ‘you mean you had to read a book to know that?’ The best aassessment of this friend was made by her precocious four year old nephew who asked ‘how is it that Auntie has no knowledge but so many ideas?’ The same friend amazed a visiting conservationist, an old buddy of mine. Acting as interpreter, I had explained to her that he was interested in the effects of hunting on the environment. She then gave a long and very detailed description of the checks and balances in the rural economy and how the traditional ways in the countryside involved killing a very small proportion of the wild animals there and preserving their habitat after which my conservationist buddy said ‘that’s uncanny, that’s exactly what I was trying to tell a bunch of experts at a conference in Miami and none of them believed me.’
I digress. The bit from the Bible that caught my attention today is from that canny old bird St Matthew where he says ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.’ It is slightly disappointing that St. Matthew does not tell us what species of moth he was thinking of but I imagine his attention was on other things. We don’t have too many thieves here and as well as moths you can add termites and ants but basically I find old Matthew and I are thinking very much along the same lines, though I have to take the heaven bit with a large dose of sodium chloride*. The sense of what he was saying has been brought home to me particularly forcibly as I have just received the proceeds of the sale of a minute flat in London which could buy me ten quite grand houses here and can’t find anything to buy. My policy on possessions is quite simple: I have identified all the objects that I need to live reasonably and pursue my passions and I’ve found ones that do the job well. Anything esle is clutter for the moths, the rust or the fortunately few and far between thieves.I now understand the reaction of the woman who recently won several million pounds in a lottery and when asked what she intended to do with it, replied ‘buy a new washing machine’. Twenty years ago there would have been no problem- a new stereo, car, motorbike, video, TV a whole load of consumer goods would have swallowed the sum up in no time. Mind you, I gave it a good shot. Not having any other ideas or, as it happened, a working watch I thought I would go out and buy the most expensive one I could find. All I asked of it was that it had the date (which I look at more often than the time), clear figures and no silly winding up and other time-consuming nonsense. None of the watches I saw met these criteria. The ones that came closest were all automatic or eco-something and I’ve had unpleasant experiences with both. I used to own a solar-powered watch and an automatic both at the same time. One I had to remember to put out in the sun every day, the other I had to take for walks more often than my dog. They were taking over my life. So I abandoned then both. Finally, after pounding the local shopping mall for far too long, I found a watch which met all my criteria. For the princely sum of six pounds. So it’s back to square one. None of the athletic-looking young men or the provocatively dressed young ladies in the adverts could persuade me to join their lifestyle or buy their products so it looks as if I’ll just have to give it all away again. Why does life always give you a set of irons when it’s just taken away the balls?
* My opinion of the Bible is slightly lowered by the fact that it seems to have an unhealthy obsession with clothes moths:
So man wastes away like something rotten, like a garment eaten by moths (Job 13:28)
Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up. (Isaiah)
Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. (James)