LATELY — 8 June 2001
The following quotations are from “Essays in Idleness” (Kenko, c. 1283-1352):
“If there is no advantage in changing a thing it is better not to change it.” (#127)
“It is a pleasant thing when a person comes without business and leaves after a quiet talk. Joyful, too, to get a letter just asking how you are, after a long silence.” (#170)
“It is always better to be simple and uninteresting than to be interesting but affected.” (#231)
“Somehow there is always a charm about even the most impromptu and careless sayings of the men of bygone days.” (#14)
Kenko can generally be counted upon to say pretty things when provoked. (Essay #191 is “I think it a pity to hear a man say that things do not look their best at night. … Good-looking people look even better at night by lamplight; and it is pleasant to hear the voices of people talking guardedly in the dark. Perfumes and music, too, are most pleasing at night-time.”)
Another tremendous book is Abelard’s The Story of My Misfortunes. (This is the Abelard of Abelard and Heloise (Heloise link a better, shorter, summary)–basically, Abelard shagged Heloise, and then got castrated for it.) Abelard’s this 12th Century genius French philosopher who battles his way through life troubled by not a skerrick of self-doubt. From the Foreword, a note to the reader: “in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought”–not only is he smarter everyone else, but his misfortunes are the greater too.