Water dropsMany talk about purity, or being pure.

There’s something very understandable and attractive about the concept of purity. But it’s more a scientific and colloquial matter than a realistic virtue.

I don’t think I have ever seen pure gold, and doubt I could tell it apart from 18 carat. We might approve of pure water, and enjoy mineral water when out and about (bottled water that has been transported is hardly a responsible way of quenching thirst at home) but such water is not pure, and you would not enjoy it. Pure H2O is not particularly palatable, and is unavailable for consumption; try distilling water if you want a taste.

So many seek purity, as if anything impure is dirty. People buy expensive compost and then throw gravel and stones over their gardens, for fear of simple muck and insects. Soil should be rich and varied, not developed for merely a handful of specific properties (apologies and hat tips to those people growing plants that need specific chemical conditions or barren soils).

Even the Barefoot Doctor’s 2008 book was called ‘Pure’; Doc didn’t mean to eshew the complex interleaving of ying and yang and the ten thousand things; he meant ‘pure’ as a metaphor for focus, but my point is that we often esteem the pure and denigrate the impure. We can fall into the trap of judging the impure as less, as filth, as contagious, instead of only discerning its difference, its complexity, its richness.

The words ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ could be better used as descriptive terms, rather than judgement words. Life and people are complex and complicated; everything is an admixture and aggregate. Let’s respect the variety and usefulness of reality.

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