Synchronicity Always Strikes the Same Place Thrice

If, as Holbrook Jackson maintains, your library is your portrait, then surely your public library loans are your latest snapshot.

My list of current loans reflects my recent fascinations with tea (social, cultural, historical, comestible), simplicity, Jane Austen’s times (tea and crime) and Victorian-era New Zealand (mostly crime). I also have books on undertaking and rhetoric, which simply caught my eye as I browsed.

Jean Siméon Chardin - Woman Taking Tea - WGA04749

I expected to see wabi-sabi mentioned in the book on the Japanese tea ceremony and it seemed natural to encounter it in one of the books on simplicity. But when it popped up for the third time in the book about modern Canadian undertaking, I was surprised.

My favourite of the three encounters is the essay ‘Wabi-Sabi Time’ by Robyn Griggs Lawrence; in the book Less is More, edited by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska.
Wabi being notoriously hard to define, she gives a variety of descriptions, including “a little monk in his torn robe, enjoying a night by the fire – content in poverty.”

Habito de s francisco

Sabi is a bit easier to define: it refers to the effect of the passing of time (literally: rust).
Together, the words wabi-sabi conjure a sense of imperfect beauty, tarnished with time, but valued all the more for its age and imperfections.

Wabibitos live modestly, satisfied with things as they are. They own only what’s necessary for its utility or beauty (ideally, both). They revere humans over machines, surrounding themselves with things that resonate with the spirit of their makers. Wabi-sabi is imperfect: a beloved chipped vase or a scarred wooden table… It’s like going to Grandma’s house.

“Our Depression-era grandmothers knew wabi-sabi. And their houses were so comfortable because they understood, inherently, the difference between wabi [or possibly sabi -DM] and sloppy. Their tablecloths and linens were faded, but they never had rips or tears. Their furnishings had a settled-in quality, but they weren’t dilapidated. Their floors showed wear, but they were always swept, with rag-rugs that wove together memories in their use of old garments.” (Less is More p.160).

Ghanaian Broom

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as a pretty good way to live. Banish perfection, or the illusion of perfection for which we strive; banish the cheap (or expensive) tat which is heading for planned obsolescence, or never had a purpose to begin with. Have little, but take joy in the little you have.

Beauty. Simplicity. Usefulness. Mmm.

Have you been surprised by synchronicity lately? What’s your take on wabi-sabi, or similar concepts? And what do your library books say about you?

Are You Obsessed?

I’ve always had obsessions. Some idea or project or subject will suddenly loom large in my mind and I can’t stop thinking about it. For a while, anyway.

For some reason I’ve always thought that if the obsession wasn’t going to last I should quell it as much as possible. Obsessions do pass (although some are recurring) and it seemed wasteful to pour so much time and energy into something I’d have moved on from in a few weeks’ time.

In my youth (all right, even now) I enjoyed completing questionnaires which purported to tell you something about yourself, whether serious (Myers-Briggs) or not (What Punctuation Mark Are You?*).

It was after completing one of the never-occasionally-sometimes-often-always variety that I realised I had only one ‘always’: when you are interested in something, do you want to read up on it?
Yes. Frequently more than I want to actually do the thing itself, which seems silly but saves a great deal of investment in short-lived fads.

I’ve had obsessions of various lengths with millinery, embroidery, steampunk, jesters, historical costuming and various periods of history including the fall of Tsarist Russia, Anglo-Saxon England, the Regency era and the social history of World War II – among other things.
And it all goes into the files for later, although as Kristen Lamb points out, writers tend to be ‘Masters of “Things Few Know and Fewer Care About”.’

I recall reading yet another book of self-understanding-through-classification which described people who collect information (this is me, I thought) showing their love for others by sharing bits of their collection with them. So to all who I have ever bored with random snippets of knowledge you never cared to know: I love you.

And then I came across this quote from Tamora Pierce: “The best way to prepare to have ideas when you need them is to listen to and encourage your obsessions.”
The relief! The validation! Importantly, not only can obsessions be useful to the writing life, but it isn’t just me. It’s lots of us. It could even be you.
So how do you tell if you have acquired a Writer’s Obsession? A questionnaire, of course 😀

1) Are you lying awake dreaming about it? (1 point per hour spent.)
2) Are you lying asleep dreaming about it? (2 points per dream.)
3) Do you have three or more library books on the subject at once? (1 point per book; double points if you bought them.)

Is this you?

4) Have you read all the books the library has on the subject, leaving you prowling the aisles in a frustrated search for more? (Two points; three if it’s a large library or you have access to interloans.)
5) Do you keep bringing it into conversations where it may or may not belong? (1 point per conversation.)
6) Are you marshalling your resources of spare time days ahead in order to maximise obsession-time? (1 point per day ahead multiplied by: 1 if you’re calculating in hours; 2 by half hours; 3 by 10-15 minutes.)
7) Do you trawl the internet by the hour, looking for a) information and b) some poor sap who’s as obsessed as you are? (1/2 a point per hour spent, doubled if you should have been doing something else at the time; and don’t worry, we’re here.)

If you had to get a piece of paper and a pen (or take your socks off) to calculate your score, you have an obsession! What is it? Do tell! All correspondence welcomed!

*semi-colon