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January 10, 2002
All the seasons of voluntary poverty
There's a line in My Dinner With Andre when Andre asks what it does to us to "live in an environment where something as massive as the seasons and the cold and the winter don't in any way affect us."
Well, it must do something. But I've found a way to keep in touch with what's going on with the weather: voluntary poverty. I live in an old house with no insulation, no heating or cooling, and an outside loo. If it's cold outside, it's even colder inside. If it's hot outside, well, I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.
And for all its wintry inconvenience, even that outside loo has an advantage. The short walk from there back to the house offers a clear view of the Western sky, where all of Melbourne's weather comes from. And keeping a regular eye on Melbourne's sky is part of my elaborate fantasy that I'm somehow Fitzroy's equivalent to a weatherbeaten local fisherman. "Look," I'll say, often to no one in particular, "some curvaceous cirrocumulus."
Well, I used to say stuff like that, until someone pointed out that the "cirrocumulus" I was pointing to was, in fact, not high-level cloud. Nor was it, in fact, a cloud at all. It was, in fact, a pigeon.
But, as Tolstoy said, about seven thousand pages into War and Peace: whatever, dude. But it still feels somehow right to have some idea about what's going on in the sky. I especially like to know what the moon is up to, perhaps because doing so reminds me of journeys across Asia, when I took lots of long rides in buses and trains, and often at night. I travelled with a small alarm clock, but found that I didn't much use it. I preferred to look at the moon. Watching its slow journey across the sky gave me a rough idea of the time, and a rough idea was all I needed.
Owing to all my sky and pigeon watching, I've also got a rough idea that we've stumbled into a little bit of summer. (What tipped me off was the absence of clouds, the blazing blue sky and the thirsty pigeons.) It's long overdue: it's several weeks after the summer solstice, and several months after Melbourne normally gets hot weather. We've now had not one but several hot days, thus scotching rumours that this season was shaping up to be The Summer That Will Not Come.
And when it's hot, I read. I seem to have rediscovered reading. At the moment I'm dividing my attention between M. Mitchell Waldrop's Complexity, Illiad's User Friendly, Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, Geoff Bartlett's Comedians in the Mist, Giles Smith's Lost In Music, and I'm re-reading the first book in the Sandman series: Preludes and Nocturnes. And I've just finished Brian Eno's A Year With Swollen Appendices (which I loved), Eddie Izzard's Dress To Kill and the Patrick Humphries biography of Richard Thompson.
The best exchange in The Invention of Love is towards the end, when Oscar Wilde finally makes his grand appearance on the stage. (He's been mentioned throughout the play, but we have to wait until the end to see him.) He has a conversation with A.E. Housman, the poet who wrote A Shropshire Lad, and whose lifestyle had nothing in common with Wilde's, apart from the fact that they both went to Oxford.
Wilde sums up his life by saying:
I banged Ruskin's and Pater's heads together, and from the moral severity of one and the aesthetic soul of the other I made art a philosophy that can look the twentieth century in the eye. I had genius, brilliance, daring, I took charge of my own myth. I dipped my staff into the comb of wild honey. I tasted forbidden sweetness and drank the stolen waters. I lived at the turning point of the world where everything was waking up - the New Drama, the New Novel, New Journalism, New Hedonism, New Paganism, even the New Woman. Where were you when all this was happening?
And Housman makes the incredible reply:
So. I'm at home, getting some reading done. Got a problem with that, Mr Wilde?Posted by Sean Hegarty at 10:56 PM in the Reflective category | Comments (0)
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