I remember quite a few years ago writing a sentence about some people smoking, saying they were holding onto themselves at the cigarette end lest they give folly a vent. Quite a pompous line but it was meant to express the way people need a prop. They always have done. In the Wild West a man had his gun and today we hold onto ourselves at the smart phone end or else at the ipod end. It is difficult not to have some pap or other. I manage to avoid the smart phone gesture, mostly because I don’t have a smart phone, but have a history of nail-biting and knuckle gnawing. I’m human; I need some succour. Get rid of that and I’ll be zen. Though there’ll still be those itches that need countering; nostril itches; bottom itches; wick of the eye itches. The itch is there to keep us humble.
I have, I realise, a strange pathology. When I am travelling on the bus and coming close to Big Ben I refrain from looking at my own watch or mobile phone to find out the time but wait until I come into view of Big Ben. My thinking is that I should be sponsoring public time pieces. There is of course no extra expense from how many times you consult your own watch or phone. You do not wear out your watch by looking at it. Big Ben himself will not register when you look at him and respond with an appreciative nod. I am not really demonstrating my respect for public services by using the facilities provided. My devotion to public timepieces extends to other public clocks in shops or town hall towers. I prefer to use them rather than my own poor neglected clock face, which must be muttering under its breath, unloved, and raising its eyes to the heavens (I don’t know why I bother!)
Does this betray my naive faith in civic life? There is no reason to believe that a public clock would work better than my personal one. Quite the opposite in fact, as I monitor my own and have no control over the public ones. It is just another instance of the interference between the different bits of your mind that can set up instinctive reactions that don’t work. It also shows how we like to anthropomorphize the objects of our daily life. I like to give all my household objects a crack of the whip. Not to get equal use out of all of them but, rather, so as not to hurt their feelings. I’m nice like that.
Fail again fail better. So notes one of Samuel Beckett’s relentless voices with characteristic grim humour and bleak stoicism. Discordantly I found this line printed on someone’s t-shirt in the gym the other day. A fellow Beckett-lover perhaps.More likely, the mantra of a muscle builder. Only by tearing the muscle through heavy training can the muscle rebuild bigger. Muscle is increased through failure. Fail again fail better. A perfectly logical mantra for a body builder.
And so we have the strange collision of Samuel Beckett and the modern world of weight training. Culture high and low. A collision I like. My own personal snobbery is to shun the middle brow. I like Coronation Street and Proust; Man Utd and Mahler; A way forward in snobbery. Le nouveau snobisme.