Friday, March 3, 2017

Idolatry

The pits of this particular winter are deep enough that I have become overly familiar with every artifact in every room I use. Seven months ago, my alma mater advised me to bury myself in a corner of the library in self-defense. Last fall, I found it a relief to turn off the television and bury away.
The ensuing media blackout revived my vision. I can see things now that haven't been meaningful parts of my domestic life since a snowbound winter in 1968.

The ordinary pace of wired existence reinforces plain, sleek visuals and leaves white restaurant china in command of the table. I find that the table unplugged is well graced with a reproduction eighteenth century copy of export ware that I chose as a first-timer. I appreciate the structure and ornament of the old dishes that have been in daily use (with no breakage) since '66.

Not long ago, I met distant relatives for the first time and was amused that they set as much store by tabletop amenities as I used to do. That branch of the family includes antique dealers, who are as quick to evaluate an artifact as any museum person, perhaps quicker. Years of considering domestic priorities lead me to conclude that home furnishings are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end, whatever one's end might be. To focus on possessions without considering their rational application is idolatrous. That said, artifacts that serve well and gracefully do not differ significantly from those of low-tech cultures that are willing to ornament with totemic devices and give a useful thing its own name -30-

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