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?