Life is Like an Onion
Forrest Gump, courtesy of his mama, believed life was like a box of chocolates. I love the images that brings to mind. Each piece of candy in the box represents a choice, but it is so thickly coated we are never quite sure what we are going to get. Forrest's mama honed her philosophy while washing dishes and hanging laundry out to dry. It was simple and direct and perfect for the time and place in which she raised her boy. For most of us though, life is more like an onion whose core is protected by fleshy leaf bases and a thin paper-like skin. Some layers are common to all lives. Others are unique.
The common layers develop early on, and as we begin to walk and talk, we learn the mores and taboos that govern survival in the world into which we are born. Theses first layers protect us as we explore and learn about our place in the universe. The onion begins to grow as we develop basic life skills, define our peer groups and become part of a generation with wants and needs similar to our own.
The onion's size becomes variable when schools, degrees and livelihood are factored in. It's at this time we create our homes and identify the things we value most. Concepts like justice, freedom, and compassion are internalized and become part of who we are. Layers are added for each of our relationships and bringing new life into the world causes the onion to grow still more as we raise and nurture our children. We also learn to cope with death and loss and these two are among the thickest of the layers that protect the onions core.
At this point, most onions are the size of a softballs, but they are still capable of growing. For some, this is a time of transformative change, reassessment and discovery. Others, will find the elusive key to personal happiness and continue to bulk-up the onion, hoping it will protect the key and extend their current happiness. There are, however, some who see this as a time to deconstruct the onion and expose its central core.
We are all familiar with the concept of downsizing. Those of retirement age use the word with abandon as the move to warmer climates or smaller quarters forces the disposal of possessions once held dear. The term is also used by younger people who limit acquisition because they want their presence here marked by a smaller carbon footprint. One group is in the process of deconstructing the onion, the other seeks to control its growth. Both groups have similar concerns and start from the same place, a careful identification of must haves and a plan to rid their lives of what is not necessary. The process is a bit like exercise. The thought of it is dreadful but the process can be quite pleasant. If clutter can be controlled, it is possible to live happily in smaller quarters and chances are you'll have more time and money to enjoy this thing called life. Life may not be a box of chocolates, but I like to think of it as an onion whose size I can control. Gandhi is believed to have said, "There is no path to simplicity. Simplicity is the path." He knew whereof he spoke.
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