Gotham Diary:
13 September 2011

This is just to report that I have no brains today, just mush in my skull, after a long afternoon of moving just about every other item in the blue room, including the contents of two tall bookshelves.  It was the first part of a two-day project that will wind up with Kathleen’s having the secretary desk close to her bedside. We have always known that Kathleen is a secretary-desk sort of person, but it has taken years to figure out how to put the user and the accessory in the same room. The second part of the project is scheduled to take place on Friday.

What’s all that got to do with the blue room, you may ask. (I flatter myself.) It would take too long to explain; the thing to know about yesterday is that the rooms two computer constellations were disassembled and reconstituted in new places. I can’t count the number of digital doodads that got unplugged and disconnected, reconnected and plugged back in, partly because I didn’t do any of it myself; the wonderful Jason Mei was on hand to oversee all of that. Ray Soleil and I did the heavy lifting, almost all of which involved the three pieces of furniture shown above.  I managed to do my share of the work with the help of the few remaining globs of Remicade in my bloodstream. As Ray said later, I too tired to fuss about anything, and the hours flew by in strange harmony. When Kathleen came home from work, Ray and I were gossiping about the duc du Maine and Mme de Maintenon as usual, and presently we went across the street to Maz Mezcal for dinner. I turned in on the early side.

When I got up this morning, not on the early side, I really wanted to read the Times, but I was firm, and booted up the laptop instead. During the time at Fire Island, I broke myself of the habit of beginning the day with the Grey Lady. Now the first voice that I hear in the morning is my own, and for me at least that gets the day off to a much better start, even on days like this when my mind is blank. Even if my mind is blank, my list of starred items at Google Reader is anything but, and I’m reminded that I was thinking about a provocative blog entry that I read the other day. In a down-hearted entry entitled “What is the point of learning history?” Historiann writes, “What have we learned in the past 2,500 years or so that Herodotus didn’t already warn us about:?  Hubris!

 Du calme! Is the stretch between Herodotus and us a meaningful one? I don’t think so, not when you back it up with the 170,000 years, give or take, of fully human existence, most of which was spent untroubled by abstract formulations. For most of that time (I speculate, rankly), human beings were just doing what all the other beings do, struggling to survive by any means available. The problem isn’t that we haven’t learned anything since Herodotus — and I think that we’ve learned a very great deal although, admittedly, not much about will-power. The problem is that we’re still, constitutionally — genetically, if you will — what used to be called “savages.” For several millennia, the Judeo-Christian stream of religious belief attributed this to a “fallen” state. Better to grasp that we haven’t quite got round to rising yet. We can imagine what it would be like to be better, but it’s perhaps just as well that our ideals remain out of reach. If our ideas of “better” are vastly superior to those of an educated person of merely a thousand years ago, they still need work. It’s a good thing that we can’t really live up to them.

A really convenient way of looking at things if your brains are mush, you will say.