One of my most prized possessions is a yellow cake box originally belonging to my grand-mother. Its lid is shaped with radiating grooves that, when pressed from the centre, seal it shut with a satisfying click and just the hint of a hiss. Its colour is vibrant, fabulous and enduring, its design is genius; it is totally devoted to the preservation of delicious cake. Some of you may not even have heard of the Tupperware brand. In the UK it is synonymous with groups of women coming together for Tupperware ‘parties’ which were seen by some as empowering to women stuck in the home and as disempowering by others who saw them as perpetuating the domestication of half the population. My Mum told me Tupperware stopped trading here because the products were so good you only had to buy one set for a lifetime of usage; I believe they still come with lifetime guarantees and my set is definitely still going strong into its third generation. My Tupperware is precious to me.
Last week in the UK it was the big plastic count. Across the country people were totting up how much plastic they threw away to get a true picture of the devastation we are causing to our planet with our waste. July 2022 is global plastic free month; a time to spurn single-use plastics and do our bit for the planet. I am totally on board with that. However, the focus on plastic as a bad thing in itself is, in my view, not enough. If we view something as ‘a bit icky’ we tend not to focus our time and attention on it; we sweep it under the carpet, throw it into our oceans or bury it in someone else’s land.
Last year I ask the question of my groups. What would happen if we viewed plastic as precious? If we saw it as a divine element? If we meditated on it and treated it just as we do air, earth, fire and water. This might sound like a random question for a northern tradition training programme but in Awaken to the Runes we have a module on the northern elements. There are far more than in the Greek system and the more I work with them the more I see them as a periodic table with more elements unfolding from the original two (ice and fire). Iron is an element, venom is an element. I’m pretty sure from my personal work that honey is an element. So why not plastic?
The responses from the group were fascinating. No snobbery about what’s sacred in my tribe 🙂 Plastic is malleable, hygienic, durable, infinite in its variety but NOT in its supply or production. Would we use gold once and chuck it away? For all its prettiness gold is less practical than plastic. Plastic originates from oil which in turn originates from life. What if we treated plastic as sacred? What if we spoke to it as we do crystals? Less ‘yucky plastic, let’s get rid of it’ and more ‘here are some exceptionally useful items which I plan to use throughout my lifetime and pass on to my successors’. What if plastic had a spirit? What if it possessed a sacred story of which you were part. This evening I enjoyed a delicious Flake, one of my go-to self indulgences. Only, as I threw away the plastic wrapper I was reminded that this particular group of atoms will not be returning to the earth to mulch down and regenerate as new life. No new mystery of being awaits it. Somehow the Flake was less satisfying after that which is, I think, as it should be. My next chocolate treat is going to be enticingly clad in foil or paper.
So how about declaring June ‘Sacred plastic month’. Attend to it, respect it, treat it as something you intend to keep and pass down through your tribe. Use wisely, use less.
One Reply to “Plastic: polluted or precious?”
What a fascinating and original train of thought! I had never imagined plastic in this way. But it’s a clever way to refocus on the important concept, which is not the material but rather the way we live.