Monday, August 2, 2010

perfecting the slob

Slick, four-color design magazines and upscale housing on television shows often depict something quite interesting. What they depict is nothing that is interesting, nothing that is loved: No books on the walls, no velveteen portraits of Elvis, no orange ceilings, no refrigerators with magnetized reminders.

The reason for leaving out such human traces, I imagine, is that the viewer will not be distracted from the architecture, the layout, or the placement of things. Certainly there can be a couch, but not a couch with a beautiful or ugly lap blanket lying carelessly over the back.

As in a Zen meditation hall, you can see better if there is less to see. You can introduce your own color or style without fear of contradiction. This, the magazine pictures seem to say, is an empty canvas on which you are welcome to paint.

Sometimes I wonder if people try to make their minds resemble the spare and dustless symmetries you can see in magazines or on TV ... a place in which the smell of an apple pie would never entice the nostrils.

On the one hand, the mind is as full of endless chatter as a teenager's room may have unwashed clothes on the floor. Who wouldn't want to clean up this mess? On the other hand, once cleaned to perfection ... well, how interesting can perfection actually be even if it were possible?

As a supreme court justice might know pornography ("I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it"), so each person may recognize his or her own inner slob. But recognizing his or her own inner perfection may be more than honest person could achieve. Scrub the floors until they glisten, paint the walls, vacuum the rugs, fill up the bank account, get the right car or spouse, give away all your worldly goods, erect a hermit's hut in the forest ... at what point will someone say "enough!" and just hang up a beloved velveteen Elvis ... stop perfecting things according to someone else's thin-lipped dictates?

Slob living doesn't work very well.

Micrometric perfection doesn't work much better.

How about picking your velveteen Elvis and following it to the ends of the earth?

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