Sunday, September 24, 2006

In The Midst Of Life

Today was a candle buying day. I considered catching a bus to the city—okay, further into the city—but I was really craving a visit to Sol Breads so I could sit in the window alcove and look at the weathervane and the strange patterned shapes of the newly blossoming trees against the sky. I also wanted to eat an almond or chocolate croissant, accompanied by ginger and lemon green tea, since I’d had two cups of coffee already upon waking.

I decided to forgo the CBD, thinking I could easily get a new candle from one of the many small gift and home-wares shops between my flat and Sol’s, and the moment I thought that I decided I would much rather support a local, small business than a large corporation.

I wandered into one of the new shops that seem to have proliferated in this area recently. Its displays were organised according to colour rather than product type. There was a woman standing in front of the pink section and there were people looking at the green section in between us. It was too difficult to see if there were any pink scented candles because a long table had been placed in the middle of the shop, making for a very narrow walkway on either side. I was likely to knock something very valuable off its perch with the newspaper I had in a bag over my shoulder if I attempted to squeeze past anyone.

My only option was to look at the beige/neutral section, where I had spied some promising-looking candles. The candles looked nice but it turned out they were made of paraffin, and I can’t abide them. They create too much smoke, no matter how vigilant you are with trimming the wick.

I left that shop and made my way to one that sells organic and fair trade products. The first thing I saw when I walked through the door was organic drinking chocolate and since I’ve been missing organic cocoa for a while, I thought I would try the drinking chocolate. I chose a variety laced with chilli and cinnamon: Xocolatl, which the label advises is pronounced ‘Choco-la’tl’. The label also offers that this beverage has been formulated to ‘re-initiate [chocolate] to a status of reverence and respect’, à la its role in pan-Mesoamerican rituals and festivities.

Well, I love chocolate, but perhaps I’ve treated it more like a concubine subject to my whims, than with the reverence afforded it in the ritual of the marriage vows of the Mayan tradition. Sipping the prepared Xocolatl drink now, I think the heat of the chilli will garner due respect for the beverage from me forthwith. Still, I will probably draw the line at heating my milk on a stovetop and ‘stirring in a continuous clockwise circle eleven times, [followed by] eleven counter-clockwise stirs’. And not only because I ruined my smallest saucepan a few weeks ago.

With my impulse purchase out of the way, I turned my attention to finding a candle. I decided on a hand-rolled beeswax candle that promises to burn for 70 hours. This candle is a palimpsest; it’s a scroll where the hexagons of the honeycomb are traceable beneath the painted Latin inscription, which reads: Aliis volat propriis. I’m not sure what that means, or even if those are double ‘i’s and not ‘ü’s. I strongly suspect the Latin might have something to do with a quote I found on the inside of the card packaging wrapped around the candle: ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At this point, I think I have to have a small rant about all this neo-liberal individualist new age shite I have to ingest along with my ethically produced purchases. I’m happy that the Xocolatl is ‘Certified Organic by International Certification Services, Inc.’ and, that since I’ve purchased a FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED™ product, I’m ‘directly supporting a better life for farming families through fair prices, direct trade, community development, and environmental stewardship’, but I do not want to read that one of the ingredients, in addition to ‘evaporated cane juice, cacao powder, unsweetened chocolate, chilies [sic], [and] cinnamon’ is ‘of course, love’.

If I could be sure it wouldn’t attract a bunch of deviants to my blog I’d type a string of expletives here. I’ll leave my exact words to your imagination.

Now, I’m convinced of the importance, nay the imperative, to ensure that as a consumer I use the limited power I have in that role to support, where I can afford to, those employers and organisations who are committed to environmentally sustainable practices and to the genuine well-being of their employees and their communities, but why does a beeswax candle need to contain ‘passion’ (oh, do not get me started on the evacuation of ‘passion’!), and why does its cotton wick need to be woven with ‘integrity’?

I suppose I’m curious as to why a commitment to socially accountable practices isn’t enough of a marketing device, which is, after all, what presenting this information on the various labels is about, when such practices should be de rigueur? Why does social accountability need to supplemented with rather dubious spiritual advice in which ancient civilisations are Romanticised and individual ‘journeys’ are paramount? To take the Emerson quote literally, though I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be, one could argue that taking your 4WD off the beaten path is destructive to the environment and everyone would be better off if you took a group tour. Hmmm, perhaps all I’ve succeeded in demonstrating with that argument is the malleability of quotes to suit any position you might ever wish to promote.

Still, I’ve been annoyed for a while now with the hijacking of movements for social and environmental sustainability by every self-appointed, flunky guru out to make a quick buck. Even while I was eating my breakfast at Sol’s, I picked up a magazine from a stack of the same and started to read about the author of a book Higher and Higher who asserted that the only important thing in life is the inner journey, or words to that effect. I nearly gagged on my croissant. The first ‘Higher’ of the title referred to the author’s days of drug addiction, while the second ‘Higher’ was about his spiritual evolution after giving up drugs. Suddenly I was transported back to the Religious Education classes I attended at school, where every now and then we were visited by recovering drug addicts from America, who to my mind were inappropriately excited about the compulsory nature of these classes in the Queensland public school system.

From where does the assumption arise that because you care about the ethics of what you eat, you’re also open to this creepy propaganda that preys on vulnerabilities?

Next time, if I haven’t finished reading The Vivisector, I’ll take that with me to read instead. Even bloody old Hurtle Duffield who takes perverse pleasure in prodding at the wounds that are other people’s weaknesses would be better than the vampires of the new age. Hurtle never makes any claim that he is doing anything other than satisfying his own need to paint—which is at least honest in comparison to those who set themselves up as higher authorities and promise salvation all for the price of a book purchase.

Okay, so that wasn’t such a small rant. Apologies.

Here’s what remains of the slice of fetta sourdough pizza I thought I could also fit in my belly after I finished an almond croissant:

Here’s a picture of the walnut loaf I bought the last time I wrote about Sol’s. It’s topped with cheese and the beetroot chutney from The Red Elephant Shop:

On the way home I looked up and saw a dead possum, frozen in limbo, stretched, between two electricity wires.


Laura said...

I also saw a possum stretched between two powerlines recently.

Galaxy said...

yeah, poor things. an ill timed movement of the tail and it's all over.

at uni the other day I also saw a gecko on the wall, dessicated beneath a fluorescent light while waiting for insects that obviously never turned up.

Tseen said...

why does a beeswax candle need to contain ‘passion’ . . . and why does its cotton wick need to be woven with ‘integrity’?

But, K., don't you know that everything these days is all about the emo? :P

Man, if an organic, fairtrade chocolate bar wasn't made with buckets of sincerity and zeal, it's not coming home with me.

Galaxy said...

I'm just concerned with what's in those buckets of love--nothing too organic, I hope.

I just followed that spam link to this post. Advice on card gift trade from professionals? That's me, a professional giver of advice on card gift trading. Heed my wisdom, dear card gift traders.

Ah the joys of decontextualised word searching...