Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm From The Past And I'm Here To Help

I was reading Essays In Idleness by Kenko. He was dead in 1350. I am many strains of people, but it's all European. Europe was nothing in 1350. If you were a betting man back then, you'd have bet on Asia. You'd have bet wrong.

So the Black Death is raging around Europe and the Japanese are writing in a style called zuihitsu -- just follow the brush. The brush being the stylus of choice there and then. Kenko read Sei Shonagon, the cranky broad from my masthead, same as me. And the personal essay is tie that binds us.

I hate the term: blog. It's ugly, and it's come to mean something even uglier than the sound of it. It's become the minor leagues of hate. I write personal essays here. Zuihitsu. It might not be noble, but a person has little to offer to others but knowledge of which they are sure. "I am an expert in the affairs of all men" is the banner of the professional politician and their toads. Not hardly.

Why am I wandering in the few moments between exhaustion and sleep in the dusty stacks of an alien culture dead and buried for seven hundred years? To find a kindred spirit. They're in short supply on the DIY network, after all.

A house, I know, is a temporary abode, but how delightful it is to find one that has harmonious proportions and a pleasant atmosphere. One feels somehow that even moonlight, when it shines into the quiet domicile of a person of taste, is more affecting than elsewhere. A house though it may not be in the current fashion or elaborately decorated, will appeal to us by its unassuming beauty-- a grove of trees with an indefinably ancient look; a garden where plants, growing of their own accord, have a special charm; a verandah and an open-work wooden fence of interesting construction' and a few personal effects left carelessly lying about, giving the place an air of having been lived in. A house which multitudes of workmen have polished with every care, where strange and rare Chinese and Japanese furnishings are displayed, and even the grasses and trees of the garden have been trained unnaturally, is ugly to look at and most depressing. How could anyone live for long in such a place?

You can't. I have never been in a hotel room as comfortable and pleasant as my own bedroom, and I have been in Presidential Suites before. Money can't fix the problem, and the availability of money without the governor of a framework of rules to expend it almost always makes things worse.

Our post-modern zeitgeist evangelizes that rules of any sort that govern personal behaviors or the appearance of our surroundings or entertainment are stultifying and worthy only of mindless opposition. The unthinking rejection of all tradition leads to a counterintuitive outcome: a set of rules, much more stringent than what they replaced, will replace the old ones, and they will consist of the worst possible alternative to what was there before.

How else can I explain nailing your house onto the ass end of your garage? How else can I explain a Japanese man writing about my house, and the house you should be living in, in the fourteenth century?


Bruce Charlton said...

All true - and yet I am one of those who tunes-out my physical surroundings after not many days so long as they are not actively intrusive in an unpleasant way. I probably wouldn't deserve to live in the kind of house being described - and of course (being the kind of person I am) I don't.

vanderleun said...

"Blog" -- Sound of a semi-solid lump of mucus exiting the nose at high speed and impacting on a nearby resonant surface.

Truly one of the 10 ugliest words in the language.

vanderleun said...

I hate that word more than life itself.

P_J said...

How else can I explain a Japanese man writing about my house, and the house you should be living in, in the fourteenth century?

Serendipity? Reincarnation? Trans-temporal synchronicity?

I vote for the logos, myself.

P_J said...

In any case, I'd be happy to live in a house built by either of you.

TmjUtah said...

Oh my.

I'd send you a video tour of our thrice-expanded (thrice if you count the basement and the bomb shelter off of it as one) tract home except that I respect your standards and thoroughly enjoy your writing. I'd like to keep you from coming up with a reason for you to ban my ISP, as well. That, and I don't like the thought of being guilty of your monitor leaving your house via the finely crafted (and closed) sash window.

*sigh* It's our house. We have been here since '92 and just got around to putting the living room all on one level. The other stuff... well, we are working on that. Problem is I pick up a tape measure when my mind is full of track hoe. And justly so.

SippicanCottage said...

tmj- You are jesting, of course, but you have it exactly backwards, even in your jest.

My house is not elaborate, fancy, or finely crafted. Some of the "finely -crafted" windows in my house I got out of a dumpster, for instance. But other people's finely-crafted and expensive windows are poorly placed and look at nothing, so they serve no purpose.

It cost less to build my house than any Habitat for Humanity giveaway. It does not cost a lot of money to have a comfortable place to live. Kenko's point, and mine, is that people are generally working at cross-purposes in the design and furnishing of their abodes, and spend all sorts of effort and treasure making it less liveable than it already was.

When people look for advice on what to do about these things, they get the worst advice possible, which is a catalog of good /bad things. Granite countertops GOOD! Next week it will be: granite countertops BAD!

How about granite countertops: appropriate?

The purpose of a house is to live in comfort. It sounds like you are comfortable in yours. Fine with me. But I find most people are dissatisfied with their surroundings, whether they are shabby or expensive, for reasons they don't quite understand. And the advice they get to improve them is generally the exact opposite of the solution to their problems.

P_J said...

Next week it will be: granite countertops BAD!

Had you already seen this when you wrote that? The timing is too perfect.

vanderleun said...

Ditch that Althouse and go right to the source of TRUTH!

What’s Lurking in Your Countertop? -

SippicanCottage said...

Heh. That's funny on a lot of levels. I was actually relying on the faddish nature of all of these things, not anything specific to make my observation. Like I said, if you know the rules about such things, the specifics sort themselves out and you seem prescient.

After reading the... ahem... information from the Times, I'll risk being misunderstood when I observe that I'm often amazed at what educated people don't know. Are there actually people that don't know that granite is mildly radioactive, and that level of radioactivity is harmless? The worthless Times refers to sciency stats about radon and smoking and so forth, and either has no idea what they are talking about, or is deliberately trying to mislead. Which is why I never read it. "Are you stupid, or do you think I am" is not a pleasant rheotorical question to ask yourself after reading the paper.

They once tried to fool people into being frightened by radon by doing a "study" of the effects of radon and background radiation exposure. They used as their control group uranium miners! They said see! All the uranium miners get lung cancer! Buy our expensive radon removing nonsense or else!

Then someone went and looked into the uranium mine. 100% of the miners smoked heavily.

And if you know all that, and you see the Times dragging out all this hoary old tripe and cobbling it into: if you smoke and have granite countertops you'll grow tentacles and be covered in glowing boils! It's science! If you're a neurotic housebound rich agoraphobe I assume this is all earthshakin' stuff.

I'd avoid vaccinating your children, too. Imus' wife says it's bad, and being a necrophiliac by marriage makes her an expert on morbidity. Or does she think Windex gives you Lupus? I can't keep the intellectually challenged paranoics straight.

vanderleun said...

As I said "source of TRUTH!"

SippicanCottage said...

Ah, my friend Gerard understands that the caps lock button is like cruise control for AWESOME!


Unknown said...

Your caps lock button is radioactive, too. That's where it gets its power.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Or does she think Windex gives you Lupus?

If she had seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," she would know that Windex cures acne.