The pleasure of company
“I want only the pleasure of your company.” How often have you heard that? And did you believe?
The idea that people socialize to ‘do business’ is accepted, even needed. But there are times when with no particular agenda, time is definitely not money. Time would be more like a ghost of precious moments seeping through the interstices of events we demarcate.
Did prehistoric man with only stones for tools sit around wondering about time and where it went? Did he learn to write because somehow he wanted time to stop? “Carpe diem,” goes the saying, but the thinking day resists. It passes, and gets rated good, bad, or so-so. Most days are writer-block days.
And then came the Internet. We’ve now got mail but then it also got filled with spam that we now have to filter. We Google but then Google tracks us. We Facebook, and without us wanting it, advertisers stalk us. Walt Kelly got it right: We found the enemy, and it is us.
What to do? Can we befriend our collective social selves? Can we carve out human conversations in private digital spaces? There is something to going back to pen and paper, and the mailman; or to meeting up in cafés that feel like Paris. Better yet, we embrace the idea of organizing a bunch of friends who think of dining as more than just filling up a calorie tank; the venue would be, as Hemingway called it, a moveable feast. Don’t forget to bring manners.
Why do we have tombstones and obituaries? Why do we not just talk? Of course, at a funeral, we have eulogies, i. e., we talk.
Still, talk is ephemeral, like time and our memories. The latter, as we age, get scrambled, and writing is a kind of preservative. It’s as though, with some kind of reification, we manage to live beyond the expiration dates on our memories. And certain transitions literally demand a handing over of memories. Institutional memory is ideally a perpetual motion machine.
But what happens when we write and no one reads? Is it the same as if we talk and no one listens?
Whatever did happen to E. F. Hutton? (The one with the slogan: ‘When Hutton talks, people listen.’) My guess is that slogans come and go, sales talk goes only so far, and stock market bubbles don’t last. I would, for sure, be lucky predicting The Stock Market Crash of 2018. Unlucky speech or writing gets forgotten.
Victor Hugo wrote about revolutions at different levels of perception. In Les Miserables, one such revolution came down to asking, ‘Do you hear the people sing?’
Perhaps change is why songs are written, and the good ones last. When things haven’t really changed, the songs of that era become forgettable.
In sum, we have tombstones because we want to be remembered well. Your tombstone ought to say, ‘She had a style and wrote or sang a good song. You too can sing it, softly. People will hear it and sing it too.’