Looking for Peace, and Discovering Beauty

by Johan van Lengen, July 2011

More and more we read about eco-villages, happening on all continents. Actually it is nothing new – not so long ago all villages were ‘eco’, in the sense of self-sustainability. Buildings were made using local materials found in the surroundings and customs, in a great many varieties, and which kept the people together. Of course, there was some trade and migrations, but not on the scale it is happening today.

During the last fifty years many new technologies made a move away from the large cities possible. Just think of communication; we can often continue our professions, keeping contact via our laptops. It could happen though, that an innovative item is rejected.

Like the two young architects who arrived in a small town to show the people how to build waterless composting toilets. For several weeks all went fine and people were learning but then the municipality banned their use. It turned out that the local pharmacists had put pressure on the board there to stop production. They feared that a general use of these would improve the health of the people as was evident from other areas. This would reduce the need for a number of medicines which would affect business in a negative way.

Although leaving the metropolis for a place out in the countryside is not an easy step, in spite of an increasingly chaotic citylife with an ever increasing waste of time. There have always been adventurous souls ready for a change, but most people hesitate, believing the commercials about a better future.

So, what can we do to create changes? That is to say changes in our attitudes towards life. James Milton stated already four centuries ago that “the mind in its own place can make heaven from hell and hell from heaven”. Does that mean that we have to have our minds changed, either through therapy or mediation? No it doesn’t, but it is helpful to ‘unlearn’ a number of things. Recently, a number of people have realised that our education has become lopsided. Practically all the emphasis now is on logic and none is on intuition. In other words, the left side of our brain is stimulated and the right side neglected.

Becoming aware of the presence and power of our intuition gives us many possibilities to see our world in a different light. May I give you an example:

Years ago, being around fifty, I spent a couple of days in and around a temple compound in Madurai, India. It consisted of many vaulted corridors leading to prayer halls or open spaces, surrounded by galleries, with many many sculptured columns. During my last day there, walking through a corridor a beggar woman, standing by the side with a baby on her arm, put out her other hand to me. I put some money in it, and looking up she thanked me.

Later that day, just before dark, I passed her again. When she held out her hand I said that I had already given her some money earlier. She looked up, recognised me and smiled. I do not know where the smile came from but she became the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. That night I could not sleep. The whole structure of the concept of female beauty had gone to pieces. Adolescence, movie actresses, student beauty queens, all what I knew about what makes a woman beautiful had become meaningless. These are things we do not know.

The next day, before leaving, I went to the temple to thank her. She wasn’t there.

“The mind in it’s own place….”

If we only accept our world and its people without prejudices – that is either ugly or beautiful, tall or small, black or white, warm or cold – reality will show its own face and life will become full of surprises, and changes.

There is so much to learn and we will be able to live a more simple, but nevertheless a rich life, for instance together with many like-minded people in an ecovillage.


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