Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wasted Day, Part 2

I've already taken The Art of the Wasted Day, by Patricia Hampl, back to the library, shortly after it renewed itself for me, so to speak. I remember getting a wee bit bogged down in the middle--somehow fitting, given my preoccupation with possible laziness, and more my fault than Hampl's, I'm sure--but then personal details about Michel de Montaigne (all the deaths he'd experienced, and how his retreat into essays was to contemplate death) and her marriage brought me back, as did a second pot of coffee...

"The job of being human is not figuring things out, but getting lost in thought," says Hampl, contemplating all the contemplative writers, thinkers, and born daydreamers. On Augustine's Confessions, Book 10, a meditation on Genesis, she writes, "Reading, therefore, is concentrated life, not a pastiche of life or an alternative to life. The soul, pondering, is experience." Yes! That is indeed what it feels like when I read.

Randomly, I used my diary to record some of my thoughts on her book. In my reading journal, I recorded some of her reflections on her marriage, noting its similarity to my own. In The Art of the Wasted Day, the "you" she addresses is her husband. "In a moment of great tenderness I once confessed...that I loved living with you. It's like being alone, I said happily. You cocked your beautiful head and said mildly, I gather that's a compliment?" That reminded me of our side-by-side lives in a long marriage, a double solitude for which I am grateful but that has sometimes left me sad. It is, though, the perfect marriage for two artists. Hampl also quotes Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet, saying, "Rilke describes the ideal relationship as a love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."

All through the book, Hampl is aware that the contemplative life, the life with enough leisure to daydream, is a privileged life. She's aware of Rilke's desertion of his own wife as he spent his solitude in the homes of the wealthy. But back to her own marriage, and its similarity to mine! "After a whirlwind courtship of eight years, you liked to say, we got married." I say "courtship," too! And we "courted" for eight years before we married, as well! And that makes it a Random Coinciday!

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