convenience?

I'm learning how to make tea. And not only that.

Some time last fall I read about how bad tea bags are for flavour, health and environment, and I thought that's one more small way I can help the planet. (Ugh. That sounds so holier than thou.) Anyway, I have a couple of friends who really know about tea. So I had them for brunch and they gave me some excellent, fresh, authentic tea (leaves, that is) and showed me how to make it, pinching enough to make tea for three. Later, I had to figure out how much less to pinch for one. I've been experimenting and I'm getting better at it and also liking it better. For someone who has been accustomed to tea bags as the normal, it has been an adjustment for me, more than i anticipated, and it's a nuisance - inconvenient,  you might say. I would.

Then, just this past week, I read an essay on convenience and the subtle ways it has undermined our approach to life. Tea bags are just a tiny part of it.  Remember all those "Popular Science" short movies about the inventions of the future that would give us so much more leisure and so much more time to be creative?  Well, you may not  remember those movies (they were blue and orange, I think, in the days of black and white) but however young you are, you'll remember all the rosy predictions of the future.  All the conveniences predicted have come true and then some. There in't anything you do today that isn't easier, simpler and less effortful.  Even the first wonder inventions required effort - like cranking up a car to start it, like walking across the room to change channels on the television.  No more. You can start the car now without even going near it. And you can adjust sound or brightness with the remote, and repeat or record (and stream, which Is called binge-ing and which I call pigging-out). 

Years ago I listened to a conversation my cousin was having with her mother, my aunt. Auntie Anna - she was the only aunt I called Auntie - about laundry. Anna thought Margaret worked too hard, washing every day, keeping everything so clean before it had a chance to get dirty. In her day, Anna said, one towel per person did all week until the Saturday night bath and that finished it off. That may sound hard to believe but remember that a few centuries ago, the  washing was done (if at all) every six or twelve months, that is, in large households. (Penelope Fitzgerald starts her novel, The Blue Flower, with tipis major project.)

When washing machines were invented, people had to be persuaded to buy them. Soap, too.  Thus, Madison Avenue. Frequent washing - and bathing  - became necessary to keep the economy growing. How convenient is convenience when it becomes  a duty, a chore and a hardship? Convenience leads to monopoly. It's a matter of scale. 

I know, I know, I'm getting carried away and I could say a lot more and will, I'm sure, at some later date when my battery and I are not so tired.  All because I've switched to leaf tea. it's very good, by the way.

 

 

 

 

I may be listless but I'm not list-less

- and I live in hope that I will catch up,  if not with Squarespace's calendar, at least with my own agenda.  So here's a line I picked up from a recent essay in the TLS (Times Literary Supplement):

"For the incurably listless, what is supposed to save time quickly becomes another way of wasting it."  

That's by Will Rees from his review of a book by Brian Dillon, Essayism.  The introduction  to this  book about essays cites James Boswell commenting on the short-form periodical essay, new at the time (late 18th century) -  "one of the happiest inventions of modern times". He goes on to detailed praise of the usefulness  of such 'light' essays, specially of their therapeutic potential. For Brian Dillon, the essay can be the cause or cure of depression (he's covering his tracks) and that is supposed to explain why a number of essayists (his list) - like Robert Burton, William. H. Gass, Joan Didion, Georges Perec- "have been prone to PARATAXIS, to abandoning themselves to the sheer joy of listing."  WOW,  did you get that? I just looked up that word yesterday. (see blog below)

Dillon may be talking about essays. I'm talking about blogs, lists and all.  Blog or fog? At times lately I have indeed had a fog in my head (and a miasma over it)  but I've been trying to write my way out of it.  Dillon experiences it, too, apparently. He asks,"Was it possible I could write out of the fog itself, out of confusion, disarray, debility?"  I hope so.

I'm counting on it.