Thursday, December 26, 2013

La Folie de Ma Vie

I should have made this post over three weeks ago.  Never mind, I'm making it now as the year dies down, before the thoughts and sensations that gave rise to it fade away.

Early in the morning of the 3rd of this month my living room renovation was to the point where I could refill the bookcases flanking my fireplace.  And it didn't give me pleasure to get it done, it made me disgusted with myself and sad.

The books had been stored in boxes in the guest bedroom since August of 2008, and in all that time I'd forgotten much of what I had.  Or at least, I'd forgotten the implications of all the books I had.  For once I got them all shelved, I felt empty, disquieted, disturbed. I hardly knew what to do with myself.

For looking at those bookcases was like peering into a window to the past.  There are books on music criticism and music history.  Musical scores I've carried to symphony concerts and scores I've sung.  There are plays and essays and poetry.  Books on art history, church history, secular history.  On art and architecture, ancient, medieval, and modern; on icons and stained glass and Gothic cathedrals.  All the subjects and pursuits that make for a civilized life, sidelined, ignored, for years. The works of so many great, entertaining, and wise authors and composers sat again on my shelves: Tasso and Browning, Shakespeare and Chaucer, Lamb and Emerson.  Beethoven, Schubert, and Berlioz (always Berlioz!).  Eusebius, Schaff, and Chadwick; Ruskin, Conant, and Arnheim. Coulton and Tuchman.  Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Where had they been these past years?  Where had I?

There was a time when I sat down and read those books.  When I sang and played that music.  Back when I had a full time architecture career and felt like I was contributing to the beauty and order of the world.  I was a better person then, before I began to dissipate my energies on computer card games and checking my Facebook Notifications tab every fifteen minutes . . .

 Well.  I kept at the work of putting my living room back together.  By the following Tuesday I had all the tools and debris and the dog kennel cleared out and could see and clean the floor.  By early on Thursday the 5th I had the two-seat sofa moved back in from the front room and the chest of drawers pulled in from the dining room to carry my 1970s-vintage stereo system and the lamp I got two or three years ago and had never used (getting the linen chest out of the dining room clears the way to finish stripping the wallpaper in there).
By Sunday the 8th I was in a fair way of looking at it all and emulating God on the sixth day of creation, standing in the middle of the room admiring my work and thinking it was Very Good.  And since then I've cleaned off the sill of the portal to the 1st floor hall and even decorated for Christmas.

But still.  But still.  I can't shake the feeling that I've screwed up seriously.   It's not that I'm spending time on house renovation instead of reading The Stones of Venice.  Redoing the house is an artistic pursuit in itself.  Rather, I feel I've betrayed the whole way of life my books and music represent. I've made several bad career moves these past few years and I don't think I'll ever get back to my life the way I hoped it would be.

And if I spend too damn much time fooling around on the Innerwebz, I'll about guarantee that outcome.