I was in the village of my childhood recently. In the 1950s there were at least seven working farms, with tractors, yapping dogs, animals herded along the main road, and cow dung spattered where feet did not fear to tread. It was smelly, noisy and messy.
Not any more. There are now, I think, three working farms. It’s all very clean. No dogs barking, no cows mooing or sheep baa-ing. No cow pats or sheep dottles decorating the roads.
It’s been ‘Cotswoldized’: second homes, suburban warfare, Chelsea tractors. Sterile.
We’re too clean. No wonder allergic diseases are on the rise when our immune systems are not challenged enough. In our ridiculously risk averse culture, kids don’t eat dirt any more. And why is there this obsession with washing and showering? Water is bad for your skin, and soap is worse. Muck falls off eventually.
I like mess. I like the outskirts of towns with the randomness of buildings and telephone poles and wires. I like the scattering of car shops, tyre shops, furniture shops, bathroom shops, burger shops. It’s all so normal somehow.
Some people have a vision of heaven that’s clean and tidy. A Midsomer village without murders where one’s friends live in ochre-coloured cottages along the banks of the stream, behind Kentucky-fried Georgian doors. I hope not. I hope it’s much messier than that. And as for murders, well, I have a little list ….
Life is messy. Relationships don’t do what you expect. Things don’t work out. Actions, or inactions, have consequences. Like a row of skittles where one falls knocking over the next, and the next, and the next …. endless and uncontrollable. This is the glorious mess of being alive. Stuff happens: you can’t control it.
Do you want to get to the end of your life regretting what you haven’t done because you wanted always to be in control? Or do you want to be able to look back knowing it’s been one hell of a ride?
Here are three helpful bits of advice that my mentor, Homer Simpson, gave to his son Bart:
I want to share something with you: The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here.