The fruitful field. — All rejection and negation points to a lack of fruitfulness: if only we were fruitful fields, we would at bottom let nothing perish unused and see in every event, thing and man welcome manure, rain or sunshine.
— Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human
In the introduction to Essays in Idleness and Hojoki, translator Meredith McKinney writes of her two subjects:
Like Chomei, though perhaps for different reasons, Kenko chose to avoid direct mention of the political upheavals and occasional outright warfare of his day, although they form the backdrop to much that he describes, and would have touched him closely at times. He frequently laments the past, when the courtly culture that he loved was in its heyday and unsullied by the rougher ways of the contemporary world, but he was a pragmatic man. Where Chomei was prone to gloom and to impulsive reactions that led him to flee the mundane world and bury himself ever deeper in the hills, Kenko, for all his admonitions to do likewise, was in fact far too intrigued by the world to turn his back on it. The contradictions that drove Chomei to despair and self-accusation sit happily together in Kenko’s writing, and in his life. His times demanded adaptability to an often inconsistent and multi-layered world, and he was a man well suited to his times.
I thought of this while reading The Most Reverend “Dr.” Douglas Graychin Dalrymple Esq. &c’s latest musings. I have also avoided the news for a while. More from overwork than principle, to be honest, but still. For the majority of the day, all I know is what happens within the four walls of the warehouse. If there’s an English or German football game to watch later, that might be the only exposure I get to the outside world that day. I generally get my news second- and third-hand, by reading other people who sometimes mention it. In fact, if I didn’t enjoy scribbling for a hobby, I very well might go weeks without knowing what’s going on the world. Does that make this a bad habit? I hope not.
I like to think of this as my virtual front porch. I don’t go out and get involved in the world, and I sure don’t invite the world into my inner sanctum, but I’m happy to sit a spell and watch the world go by while I mumble smart-ass remarks about it. Of course I think I’m superior to the boobs and twits I see making fools of themselves. Of course I know better and realize that that fleeting sense of superciliousness is itself part of the game. The insecure adolescent, the aspiring intellectual, the political partisan, the obsessive nerd, the amateur insult comic, the absolute flaming idiot — I recognize myself in each one as they pass by. They may wave, and I may flip them off in return, but I mean it in the nicest way possible.
Chesterton said something about the alcoholic and the teetotaler making the same mistake by treating wine as a drug, not a drink. In the same spirit, there are two ways to take the world too seriously. One is to get emotionally involved in it, and another is to be emotionally removed from it. As foolish and stupid as it often is, it’s still my world, and I still love it.
December 17, 2020 @ 7:45 pm
I appreciate the sentiment at the end there. Similarly, when my wife and I get fed up with the absurdities of the cultural/political climate in our city or the nation at large, we remind ourselves that while, in our judgment, many of our fellow citizens are idiots, they’re at least *our* idiots. Home is still home and, while I hate to see the phrase co-opted these days, we really are “all in it together.”
December 17, 2020 @ 7:58 pm
In my youthful anarchist phase, I was thankfully limited to reading dry historical books from AK Press. Had social media existed then, I could very easily have been swept up in the sort of mob stupidity we’ve seen this year. One, I thank my lucky stars that I happened to grow up in an age when we were allowed to outgrow some of our stupidity in private without wider repercussions, and two, I try to look at some of the twenty-somethings today striking all the right poses for all the right causes and imagine how the twists and turns of life might bring them to renounce all of that in another couple decades.
December 18, 2020 @ 12:38 pm
“I thank my lucky stars that I happened to grow up in an age when we were allowed to outgrow some of our stupidity in private without wider repercussions…”