short story
religious thoughts
born in the wrong era
timeless trampede
so little sacred
never going anywhere
price on the priceless
fantasy art






About a month ago, a man who is a long distance MLM (multilevel marketing) representative posted this at "My grandmother lives out near Palm Springs (a very hot & dry desert resort town in Southern California) and has a habit of always moving in the month of August. It wasn't until I called her to remind her that I was the one that had helped her move 3 times in the 115 degree Palm Springs weather and that if she didn't become my customer again, next time she could call her AT&T representative to help her move....She's been my customer now for more than 10 years."

I personally knew a woman who was involved in another very popular, multinational MLM business. She was a very shy woman who worked long hours at her labor-intensive home-based business. Her MLM business motivated her to become friendly and outgoing, even making small talk in the grocery line, something she had never done before. Although her stint with this MLM business had some positive effects (helping her challenge her fears & lack of self-confidence in talking to strangers), she approached everyone with the ulterior motive of finding "downlines" and ultimately "making a buck." Those "uplines" who had approached her and gotten her involved in the business likewise displayed a self-confident & friendly front to her. Once involved with this MLM she was accepted into a ready-made "family" and supported by a circle of "friends." But their only interest in her was in the potential dollar signs they saw when they looked at her. So, of course, when she left the MLM circle, she was outcast from her "friends".

Although both MLM examples are extreme, how many times do we put a price on what is priceless? How many times do we sacrifice that much-needed time for solitude at the beach or in the woods? How many times do we put off time with a loved-one in order to do more work, bring in a larger income, or numb-out by watching television? How much are we cherishing our relationships and friendships, time for ourselves and our spirits?

This phenomena is symbolically addressed by an old fairy tale, The Handless Maiden. The story begins with a miller who grinds his grain in the ancient way - laboriously turning the millstone by hand. The devil appears and offers to speed the process up, with much less effort required on the miller's part. All he wants is a small fee - whatever stands behind the mill. Thinking it is just the oak tree that grows behind it, the miller readily agrees. The devil then transforms his mill into a mechanized one, complete with millstones that grind grain more thoroughly than the miller had ever done, using water as its source of energy. The miller is ecstatic & relieved - he no longer has to "earn his bread" so laboriously.

The miller has to pay the devil, so he grabs his axe in preparation for cutting the tree down, but the miller's daughter was what was standing behind the mill. The miller begs the devil to take something else. The devil offers to turn the mill back to what it was and call the deal off, but the miller is unwilling to give up his newfound freedom. The devil takes the axe, chops off the daughter's hands, and carries them away.

"A most terrible thing has happened! A mechanical advance has been won at the expense of the young feminine. This bargain is made many times a day by modern people. We buy a practical advance at the cost of a feeling value every time we give up our trip to the gym, some weekend camping, or agree to more commuting on the freeway, in exchange for some practical goal....We are from a long line of millers and the infection is deep. Many times a day in a modern life the young feminine pays the price, a further amputation, when one makes a devil's bargain and believes one can get something for nothing." (Robert Johnson from The Fisher King & The Handless Maiden)

My mother raised me with the constant underlying message of the necessity of my needing to earn an income. Not just earning an income in a 9 to 5 sort of way, but she was anxious unless I was working hard at something that was definitely profitable, and I needed to be working at it 24/7. I could hear disapproval between her words whenever I'd recount that I was working at a job, holding down classes. The only time I perceived she felt "satisfied" with how I was living my life was when I was holding 3 jobs and taking 7 classes. My writing was discouraged because she didn't know how anyone could "make a living" off of it. To this day, I've fought off a subconscious guilt while doing anything that promotes my spiritual & emotional well-being.

That much "productivity" is counterproductive. I had always valued friendships, art, writing, nature, spirit, daydreaming. Suffice it to say, I couldn't hold up the "type A" lifestyle and I am more fortunate for it. Many workaholics and financially wealthy people usually end up on their deathbeds wondering what was the meaning of it all. For, without the "young feminine" at the center of our lives, there is no meaning to any of it. There is no reason to go to the deep end of striving for material comforts and status when we end up empty and hollow inside. We gain the world, but lose the soul.

I write this after spending a couple of hours with my significant other meandering along a trail that winds through coastal cliffs. We could have kept working - he was behind in some online work & I had to finish this 'zine, but the day was unusually sunny & I chose to honor the sacred in life. My life wasn't always like this - in the past, I felt incredible guilt for cherishing inner moments. Over the past few years, I've made resolutions to myself to put down the work, shut off the computer, walk (as opposed to driving the car), play with my cats, rather than "keeping my nose to the grindstone." I have to admit, I don't always heed my own advice. I often relapse, spending countless hours in front of the computer - endlessly doing - instead of taking a break and just being.

It is impossible & imbalanced to pay homage exclusively to the "young feminine," but since this is society's shadow, it is easy to get caught up in societal expectations and to shrug this off ourselves. Remember to honor yourself, your loved ones and what is sacred to you today.

published in Lunesence, Issue 1, September, 2000
published in, October 13 - 27, 2000

© 1990 - 2003 Katharina Woodworth

fantasy art