Lucretius (lucretius) wrote,

Late night blahpost!

Up too late because of bad scheduling, bad work habits, and bad luck.  So now I will post!

I'm working on a conference paper, and have about ten good pages out eleven needful on a topic that really deserves fifty.  Unfortunately, I only have seven pages worth of time.  And must have it done by Wednesday night.   At such times I wonder what it is in me that makes me take on impossible tasks, make them harder than they need to be, and put them off to the last minute. I suspect deeply some sort of throbbing inbuilt urge to fail and die.

Tomorrow, I teach some Sei Shonagon and Kenko: some extracts from The Pillow Book and Essays in Idleness.  I'll be teaching them 3/4-assed, which is a pity, because I love Essays in Idleness above all candy.  The Taoist/Nostalgic/Fatalist/Romantic/Wistful thing was built into me by 13.  An example:

If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us!  The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.  Consider living creatures--none lives so long as man.   The May fly waits not for the evening, the summer cicada knows neither spring nor Autumn.  What a wonderful unhurried feeling it is to live even a single year in perfect serenity!  If that is not enough for you, you might live a thousand years and still feel it was but a single night's dream. 

It's like reading a little Montaigne, plus a little Wallace Stevens, plus a whole bloody lot of Lao Tzu.

Sei Shonagon, on the other hand, is a perfect prize of a different sort, as if we could get from the twentieth century only a very very clever, very aesthetic, moderately shallow rich girl's blog, which gives us to understand the full emotional scope of mall culture in someone who finds nothing more depressing in the world than someone wearing white Payless shoes to work at Orange Julius after Labor Day.   Expressed in what you have to imagine might be heartbreakingly beautiful prose, if only you spoke the language. From her, "Hateful Things," a list of you know what:

A gentleman has visited one secretly.  Though he is wearing a tall, lacquered hat, he nevertheless wants no one to see him.  He is so flurried, in fact, that upon leaving he bangs into something with his hat.  Most hateful!  It is annoying too when he lifts up the Iyo blind that hangs at the entrance of the room, then lets it fall with a great rattle.


Indeed, one's attachment to a man depends largely on the elegance of his leave-taking.  When he jumps out of bed, scurries about the room, tightly fastens his trouser-sash, rolls up the sleeves of his Court cloak, over-robe, or hunting costume, stuffs his belongings into the breast of his robe and then briskly secures the outer sash--one begins really to hate him.

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