Friday, December 7, 2012

Pretty Little things on their way to hell

    Yesterday I was watching a lecture on the eastern intelectual tradition and at lecture 16 it finally got around to Japanese.  This series has SO MUCH STUFF IN IT.  The lecture talked about three thinkers but the two that stuck with me was the woman who wrote the story of Genji and the woman who wrote The Pillow Book.  These books propose two opposing ideas of aethetics to each other.  Genji is more of a long term love of the world, it is taking it all in and understanding and accepting that all things must come to an end, so it definitely has some buddist influences.  The Pillow Book is more fascinated with minutiae it is full of lists, small thoughts, essentially the little things in life.  The idea behind the pillow book is that it is something you jot down thoughts in just before going to bed or just after waking up whereas the story of Genji is a grand swooping narrative that takes place over 70 years and has like over 50 major characters or something ridiculous like that. 

To make a contemporary comparison it is like comparing the world views of Cloud Atlas and Amilie…yeah okay so maybe a French film and a movie that isn’t even on dvd yet aren’t the best choices but hey if you’ve seen both of these movies then it works out for you.  Magnolia would be a good stand in for Cloud Atlas as for a stand in to Amilie… yeah I dunno American Beauty would work pretty well.  Actually American Beauty works in both ways but I can do this all day and get no where so lets move on. 

Aesthetics is one of my favorite things and it is something that I am deeply connected to in both how I live my life and my various outlooks on life and yet for some reason my appreciation of the tiny things in life seems to have taken not so much of a back seat but rather it is in my subconscious rather than conscious.  I still love tiny things in life like certain tactile sensations, food of all sorts, tiny conversations I have with people, and in general all sorts of little things.  I’ll make a list in a little bit.  I think the question I have is do I appreciate them less by not acknowledging them in any sort of formal way ie a blog post like this or my own pillow book?  Do I end up missing out on certain things?

Lets take for example one of my favorite things.  We have these shaffers that have curled metal feet on them.  Terrible idea really they slide all over the place, not the point though.  What I love to do is to run my index finger along the inside of the curled feet.  I love how cold the metal is, and it isn’t perfectly smooth like stainless steel but its treated so that it has this nice subtle texture to it.  I could run my finger along it for far longer than most people would consider normal but whatever it feels nice.  I like to stop and appreciate beautiful sunsets and I love the way a handful of d12’s feel. Yes d12’s to you they are the bastard dice to me they are amazing.  Oh I also love frosted dice those things are the best. 

However, I don’t usually run around extolling the virtues of all these little things because I am usually busy engaging in them.  I mean why write about how amazing that first taste of strawberry ice cream is when you can go do it.  I mean I can do this right now.  Appreciation is the question.

I think that is one of the biggest challenges to having an ascthetic that is rooted in minutae rather than the grand swooping narrative of life.  There is always something that can be marvelous.  I can always indulge myself and I do so frequently.  I eat my double stuffed oreo cookies because I love them, I eat inappropriate things like bananas where ever and whenever I want, I love my music.  However, I think when my love isn’t tempered by reflection I find that I end up not necessarily missing some things but, shit I don’t know.  Ultimatley I think the reflection ends up being one of the little things that I just enjoy doing.  I don’t enjoy them any more or less because I stop to think and reflect upon them.  The small things are after all ultimately fleeting.  You can’t keep a sunset forever no matter how hard you want to and every smile is unique because the context is just as important as the facial expression itself.  Little things are little, they get lost, shuffled around, and it takes a little bit of practice to find them.  They may not be always there in the same spot but I’ve found that once I start looking it is everywhere I go.
    So how does this translate into the grand swooping narrative of life?  Well it doesn’t.  They are at polar opposites of each other though that doesn’t mean they are necessarily at odds.  They are just different.  If there is any better example of “your kink is not my kink” it is right here.  When people ask me what Cloud Atlas is about I usually end up shouting is its about “Love and infinity” because yeah that’s a pretty damn good three word summary.  Life’s swooping narrative sounds exciting it is the realm of love after all.  Not the cute little crush love but the massive life long 40 year married and we still like each other love.  It is the place where the daily ebb and flow of everyday life intermingle into this one majestic tapestry that is our lives and it is up to us to make it as amazing as possible because the world is a shitty place and it won’t do fuck all to help us.  Okay so maybe that last part may seem like a bummer but it is true.  It is up to us to make things grand.  It is taking life and making the most of it as possible for as long as possible.  It is standing in proud defiance in full view of death, destruction, and petty human drama and remaining as resilient as possible.  It is love not necessarily between a group of people but for everything no matter how ridiculous it is.  It is acknowledging the near impossibility of this message and not giving a god damn because that is the only way to make headway. 

I think a lot of people have lost their sense of aethetics both on the micro and macro level.  I think it is what tends to make us small minded and mean.  That isn’t the only thing but it certainly helps.  I think the biggest, best trick is to maintain a balance between the two.  To both see the narrative and the small pretty things.  It is strange.  It is also something we don’t really talk about any more.  Not in any serious level.  It didn’t use to be this way discussions of the sublime and how to appeciate art used to be common place and held an honorary part in literarly theoretical discussion.  I think it is a fascinating topic though but I will admit that there is nothing more individual than the way a person processes what they like which is why most conversations on the topic fail to bear any fruit. 

Anyway my lunch is over and I’m pretty much done here so TA!

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