Thursday, April 11, 2013





It is extremely satisfying to create a home—no matter how modest. Though my personal circumstances were decidedly spartan while at my expensive boarding schools—which enforced the notion that hardship and discipline build character—I was exposed to considerable luxury both while growing up, and afterwards when I was in business armed with a generous expense account. Nonetheless, I have gradually grown to want less and less in material terms. Also, I have stayed in too many expensive hotels, and eaten in far too many overpriced restaurants, to regard them as luxury.

This hasn’t stemmed from any conscious philosophy—or religious conversion—but more from the realization that the main focus of my life is writing, and that anything which distracts from that is almost certainly unnecessary. Having time to myself to write—now that really is luxury.

It is also salutary to have to go through the belongings of someone who has died—as I have done twice in the last few years. Somehow, as you mourn the person who has passed on, material possessions seem trivial.

This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate nice things. It is much more a feeling that I don’t need them. I admire works of art and fine craftsmanship, but if someone else wants to own them—providing I have reasonable access to some of them, so I can keep my artistic sensibilities exercised—that’s fine by me.

I make an exception where my work is concerned. There I like to be as well equipped as I need, and can afford. I also like to be reasonably comfortable.

That phrase reminds me of the story of a British Army officer who even when sleeping in the field, in a trench, insisted on sleeping in silk pajamas. If necessary, he would wear his uniform over them, but he always insisted on changing into them before closing his eyes. When asked about this eccentricity, he commented: “Any fool can be uncomfortable.” He was killed in the endless battle of Monte Cassino—and was buried in his silk pajamas. True story? Supposedly yes—but if it is not, it should be.

My friend Tim has just tend me a particularly cheering quote.

"Saints are sinners who kept on going."

--Robert Louis Stevenson,
Scottish novelist, poet and essayist

How encouraging!

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