Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The meta entry

One day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of notebooks.

"What shall we do with them?" Her Majesty asked me. "The Emporer has already made arrangements for copying the 'Records of the Historian'."

"Let me make them into a pillow," I said.

"Very well," said Her Majesty. "You may have them."

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I sat about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material ...

- From The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon,
translated and edited by Ivan Morris

We seem to be off to a good start. I'm thrilled to see so many people I admire dabbling in this thought project with me. Am torn on whether to launch into dialectics of reasoning and snippets of play, or just hush up and let other people talk around me. The last thing I want to do is make this my blog, with a few other people commenting from time to time. At the same time, I started it, so theoretically I'm the only person obligated to spend time here. I'm just glad some of you have said "hello," and that Ashley is posting pictures.

You do know I adore you guys, right?

Anyway, I've been thinking about what to write. Last summer was all about my experiences in a new country, and it was easy to ramble for hours because I scribbled down whatever was happening to me. This summer is more familiar, so to me my experiences seem less striking.

Then again, there's always some new facet of life flashing you its hindquarters.

How did Kafka put it? "The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." Something like that. So I suppose as long as I give 30 minutes to my keyboard, something will drop off of my fingers.


Shonagon would start out with a metaphor.

In childhood it was the stories that were the most wonderful. Mother's voice danced into my ears, her words formed worlds more moving than life. Fairies and peaches and witches and beanstalks, and every tale had a meaning, no matter how terrible the ending seemed ...

Have I made a good start? Do I sound like an Empress's lady-in-waiting, a thousand years old and wise beyond all expectations?

Probably not. Still, it seemed a good way to impose purpose on this beginning. Incidentally, if you ever want some rainy-day reading, I highly recommend The Pillow Book. I talk about it all the time because it's one of those great finds. Not action, not so much by way of a plot. Just pages and pages of life as it was during the Heian Period in Japan. It's just like reading a blog, but meticulously executed, full of etiquette and subterfuge and grace.

If I wrote to you about my life right now, all you'd imagine is a cramped little bedroom, bare hangers skewered to the cluttered ironing board, clothes wrinkling on the office chair, junk food on my desk, and a tubby little beagle squeaking from the center of the mattress hoping for a bite of my chicken breast sandwich. Oh please mother, I will speak to you like a human, just give me a bit of the juicy deliciousness before I die here starving! The chihuahua I live with (until August, at least) has been pooped and walked and fed and petted, and she is back in her crate safe (for the moment) from the temptation of edible extension cords. The house is so quiet my whirring computer fan seems loud. And I am glad to have this indulgent solitude all to myself -- my messy room, my little corner of the world.

Tomorrow I will go to work, and life will be utter chaos. My desk will be immaculate. My files are alphabetized and numbered, and sorted into sections of notes, research, filings, correspondance. My desktop calendar shouts reminders at me in 30 minute intervals so I know to call J. Doe about item X delivered on MM/DD/YYYY. But the work is ultimately as productive as a hamster in a wheel. No matter how many people I meet, no matter how artful my interviews or successful my arguments (and 99% of the time I have no idea what I'm doing), I am still working with a system that creates almost as much meaningless suffering as it solves. And so while I try to use the law to make life better for people (or at least less destructive), I still look back to stories to give my life more meaning.

I still think of the sofa in my parent's house.

Hear my mother's voice.

This is home.

No comments:

Post a Comment