“Whether something lasts or not has nothing to do with whether it’s made of stone or steel or wood or fabric. A house built all in wood can be a monument that lasts for hundreds of years because it seduces people to live in it, to use it and maintain it. Eternity depends on whether people are willing to take care of something. In Greece, ordinary white houses are repainted every year. Today we are often told to use materials and structures that are free of maintenance. But no building can be neglected entirely. We need constantly to renew our relationships—to the houses we live in, to our friends, to our own bodies—all the time, every day.”  ~ Werner Herzog

The beautiful old house we live in was built in 1895 and requires more maintenance than we have the time or, frankly, the inclination to maintain, and I always feel a twinge of guilt when I read something like the above passage or when I go to people’s homes where the paint is always fresh and the lawn never neglected. But I’m getting closer to accepting that I just don’t like home maintenance and would rather spend my time cooking, working, reading, hanging with friends and family, or doing yoga, all of which are other forms of maintenance and which also require constant renewal.

I remember the first time I went to Yogaville. They have silent lunches on Saturdays, where guests either watch old videos of Sri Swami Satchidananda speaking words of wisdom, or listen to one of the swamis read from his writings. A line that struck me that day and which I joked about later in the Yogaville dorm to Lisa, Carey and MJ, was, “if you want to be a friend, be friendly.” “Really?” I asked them. “That’s his sage advice?” I came up with my own words of wisdom: “if you want to be a runner, run; if you want to be a painter, paint; if you want to be a writer, write...”

That was more than 10 years ago, but for some reason, I’ve kept coming back to his words, finding them relevant, fresh and, recently, a renewed priority. Am I being friendly? Am I being kind to myself? Whom from the past am I keeping in touch with? Am I cultivating new friendships? In what ways am I continuing to maintain and renew my current and most important relationships?

How about you? What are you maintaining? What are you neglecting? Are there things you’re maintaining that could be neglected? Are you neglecting things that should be maintained?

Susan JohnsonComment