25 January 2016

Less than a dot

Dear diary,

In the olden days, I’d have to wash my clothes in the river. All of my silken shirts and bright white slacks. Then, when the fusion-powered washing machine was invented, my reaction was: “Hurrah! this shall save me X hours per day.” (For it took X hours to launder my clothes by hand, in Vermilion River, using a washboard.) My point is that the fusion-powered machine was initially considered a holy blessing: its purpose was to make life easier, to free up time for families in the community. But eventually these machines learned how to engage in battle, and so we innocents became employed to operate them (you pull their lever and they shoot out dangerous missiles). Now we spend all of our time at war, and our clothes remain dirty.

I’d like to meet more people. I wish I knew someone who worked as a telephone operator. I’d also like to know at least one stockbroker, so that I could revel in tall tales about the market. And doctors are always nice to befriend, because of their knowledge. Plus they have good bedside manners.

Speaking of doctors, last night my sweetheart and I were reading a story in Boccaccio’s Decameron which featured a member of that distinguished profession. In the story, the doctor was ridiculed by a pair of clever painters. (That’s how I remember it—I’m often wrong about details, like facts and plot.) The tale was written during the 1300s, and even the way that the narrator spoke about the doctor was pervaded by ill-veiled contempt. Also I remember at least one play by Molière where a type of physician was similarly disparaged. (Molière wrote during the 1600s.) …From these literary examples, I gather that the reverence that my own generation feels for this same profession is a relatively recent development. I think that the advent and growth of the methods of science have improved the public image of doctors of medicine.

I’ll end this with a passage from Edmund Blunden’s biography of Shelley; not that it has much to do with anything above—I just admire it. Blunden here quotes a writing by Leigh Hunt from 1822:

Spreading out a sheet of paper, [Shelley] ‘made a dot on it with his pen, and said, “That is the experience of man­kind.” “The white then,” said I, “is our inexperience—is time past or future, or what we don’t know?” “No,” re­turned he, “if all the paper in the world were put together, the white would not be enough for the inexperience, and yet the dot would be the true representation of the other. All space is the white; and the dot is all history.” ’

P.S.

Some people covet awards. Others refuse to accept awards, or they fail to show up to the ceremony when an award is offered to them. This subject was on my mind because, one second ago, I made the mistake of glancing at an article that touted a popular artist as “Winner of the trophy for Finest Person Ever.” Learning this fact did not alter my opinion of her work—I still think it’s great. So, I guess you could say that I don’t have a strong stance either for or against awards in general. An award’s worth is proportionate to that of its bestower.

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