What would it be like to be a shepherd?
We are discussing her trip to the Lake District. She saw a sheepdog expertly divide a flock of sheep and put one half of it onto a trailer. A local with a sheepdog said how he could never tire of the beauty of the landscape, because it is always changing: the cloud might come down and simply obscure the hillside.
She thought, it’s not the beauty of it all, a small patch of grass is sufficient. Yes. Or this wooden plank, on the table in the coffee-shop.
I remember when I noticed this, walking home from work, in Oldham- decrepit post-industrial streets, narrow terraced two up two downs- and was bewitched by the beauty of a patch of grass two yards long. Suddenly you see, on one particular blessed day. Such moments, to start with, feel like a spiritual experience. They are a huge shock, causing delight. And now, they are available at any moment: I pause, and am aware of beauty. It might be in any thing, natural or artificial.
I have learned to see this beauty. I have been taught by art: by photographs of things thought mean, or ugly, or not worthy of attention, taken to show beauty in unexpected places. And this concept of beauty in the every-day so delights me that I have practised pausing to pay full attention, before which anything may be beautiful. Separately, I have been shocked by sudden perception which feels so much more real, more clear than seeing while I worry about something else- I called it “Presence in the Moment”- and now do not have such shocks, because while meditating, or on the bus, or in moments when I have nothing, particular, to think about I can drop into that mode. And then I am more conscious of what I feel.
So imagining that simpler life, being a shepherd in the 19th century. I imagine it would be practical, and one might conserve energy for those moments where effort is necessary. I have no idea whether that person would find joy in the beauty of his surroundings. If so, whether he might have that sudden shock of joy, or always be aware of it. I think there would be joy in the work, and the life, but do not know how it would manifest. Perhaps I should go back to Thomas Hardy, before him few novelists took an interest in the speech of the base mechanicals.
The landscape is not beautiful, it is sublime, said the Philosopher- in the Lake District, last week, to my friend. You learn what is “beautiful”, what is sublime simply is.