I have often wondered why Buddhist monks and nuns wear saffron robes and what significance there is in their color. It has been said that the color signifies the state of a dying leaf, yellow, brown or golden, as a symbol of letting go. But recently I read that the main directive about robes in ancient Buddhist traditions was that robes were to be made of “pure cloth” which was cloth that had been rejected and deemed unusable by society.
Robes were pieced together from cloth that had been discarded, soiled by damage in a fire, stained from use during childbirth or menstruation, or cloth that had been used as a shroud to wrap the dead before cremation. The robes were pieced together by fabric that was salvaged, and then died with the spices that were available, saffron and turmeric were common, yielding the rich color.
You can see the practical value in this, recycling what was thrown away, but perhaps the spiritual, human value is something for us to contemplate. Clothing themselves in what society had thrown away might have been more of a counter-cultural response to the values that seemed to be society’s undoing. I wonder about this.
We are inundated in a very tangible way by the values that seem to permeate the world. Wealth, power, force, strength, coming out on top. Marketing, showcasing, winning.
As a reasonably new participant in some of the social media circles that demand my attention as a writer, I am wearied by the sales pitches, the drives to success, the life-coaches who want to help me get more, be more, do more if only I download their book and follow their five quick steps to winning. I can no longer distinguish between their voices – they are all after a piece of the market, a piece of me.
When what I really want, in the end, is connection – with other human beings.
What I’m after is finding a way to reach the ordinary folks who want to reach other ordinary folks.
So what I love about the miracle of social media is the potential to find those people – people I’d never otherwise meet who have fabulously ordinary lives like me, who go to work and raise families, who drink coffee when they wake up and then let the dog out, who struggle to make ends meet, who hope for holidays and sunshine, who wonder about God.
I long to connect with people who think and dream and read like me, and who come from places I’ve never been. I am amazed at the power of social media to find such ordinary people. I am stunned at the potential of technology to connect with worlds unlike mine so that a glimpse into someone else’s life might enlighten or enliven my own. What I’m really after is finding real people and their real lives.
But the airwaves or tweet waves or media waves are crowded with folks wanting to sell something. They’re so crowded I can’t find what I came for.
Its got me thinking about that “pure cloth”, the cloth that’s been discarded by society, cloth steeped in the stories of child birth and coming of age and mourning the loss of those we love. I wonder how I might piece together those pieces laden with stories that don’t seem to matter much, pieces that have been discarded.
I wonder how I can stitch together something wonderful in which to wrap my life?