“Ordinary minds are concerned with the extraordinary; extraordinary minds are concerned with the ordinary.” – Pascal
This comforts me. I live in a small village among mountains, not far from a small town in a small country. I run a small press, write for small magazines or publish with small publishing houses.
The small and the ordinary fascinate me. So too does independence. I grew up being called stubborn or independent-minded – an independence of mind that led me through the long campaign to be among the first women ordained in the Church of England and to completing the first PhD in feminist theology in the UK. The same independence made me ill at ease in institutions. From being a teacher I went on to write about alternative education and ways of living with children as autonomous people – and to home educating my four children. From being a priest I went on to explore what being human might mean without a God. I run an independent press and love it for being so. I have recently moved from the state of marriage (31 years) to being single – a new venture into independence – and I live in a place that has a strong sense of identity, of independence, and I admire that spirit (especially when it does not veer to tribalism).
So out on a walk to the post box today I came across an ordinary sheep – a ram to be precise – one of my neighbour’s flock who are too independent minded to take notice of fences. Unusually, the ram was alone, standing by the post box. Normally sheep, even the curly horned males, run off when approached, but this one stared at me and bleated the most curmudgeonly baa I’ve ever heard. He watched me post the letters and followed me home, baa-ing grumpily until a car came up the narrow road, when he began to trot briskly in front of the patient vehicle, not giving an inch. The car managed to edge around him, at which he stood and bleated fiercely, a baa-humbug to make the pre-ghost -epiphany Scrooge seem positively cheerful. Finished with his tirade he stared hard at me again, bleated again and returned to the post box.
Of course the ram in all probability had none of the bad temper or forthrightness that I’ve anthropomorphized him with, but I liked him – or rather, I liked the ram I imagined from the encounter. Not so much the moodiness, but the state of independence he seemed to epitomise – the ability to look someone in the face and speak honestly.