Saturday, March 23, 2013

Extraordinary Discourse 113

Spoken Scrapbook

Work-life balance?...

...oh, oh, if one but had the body for it one would live out one’s days in van Gogh’s room at Arles, eating up comfort and beauty and having it too, there in one last fell binge of boyhood.... to be there on the featherbed, on the oilcloth-looking floor amid one’s things... You wouldn’t even have to worry whether you can afford it. What, this poor Goodwill stuff...? ...I’d pay my life out there gladly, not so much a hero as a loving dilettante of idyll, using only the plain equipment of beauty. Substituting the hard work of freedom with the even harder work of contemplation... There are worse character flaws than sloth. Nationalism, I think, patriotism, the too-forgiving love of tribe, maybe even of family itself. All the flaws of a restrictive loyalty, whatever makes us want to be part of a small idea, whatever makes us dangerous or allows us to entertain, even for a moment, the idea of a Mother of Battles. Much better to wait it out at Arles. Much better never to have seen the flashy dance steps from which we take our marching orders.
Stanley Elkin, Some Overrated Masterpieces,
The Best American Essays 1992
(Ticknor & Fields, New York 1992)