As a treat for ourselves, Sunday night is typically pizza and dvd night – anyone staying at the farm is invited to come and have pizza with us and watch a film. Sometimes we buy a takeaway pizza, more often we make our own.
On a recent Sunday I decided I wanted to make the pizzas. There were only three of us – an unusually small number for the summer. Anyway, it took me three and a half hours to make three pizzas and I have been wondering about this for some time since. Why did it take so long? well, I had to light the wood-burning stove and get it up to temperature; I milked the goats and made mozzarella cheese with the milk I got; I harvested, washed and prepared our home grown spinach, courgettes (zucchini) and tomatoes to go on the pizza along with the salad to accompany it; then I cooked the pizzas.
Now there are some people who visit us who think this degree of self sufficiency is idyllic, and there are others who think it is unnecessarily hard work and even downright pointless. For me it is a part of how I currently choose to live my life. And still there have often been doubts as to whether I could be doing something ‘more useful’.
These doubts frequently arise from the knowledge that some people who are really close to me think it is a waste of my talents to be spending large parts of my life in this way. This is something I have known for a long time and it has been a helpful challenge to my sense of what seems good for me to do; and yet it has until very recently been a continuing trigger of unease, insecurity and considerable self-doubt.
The reason this has been bugging me for a couple of weeks now, though, is something different. It is the difficult realisation that in our practice there is no possibility of justifying what we do. We can construct a rationalisation to justify a lifestyle if we want – but it doesn’t help. Sooner or later we have to let go of this deep need for self-justification, and for the seeking of approval of those close to us, and just do what seems good to do there and then – with no guarantees that it will still be the good thing to do next week, or even tomorrow. And sometimes there is a longing for an easier practice with a set of rules, or some authority figure that can say what is good and what isn’t – even if I know I couldn’t help but rebel at such authority. Reverend Master Jiyu described our practice as being one for spiritual adults; and sometimes we can still find ourselves craving not to have to be grown up.