“Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.”
Aristotle got this correct, I believe. Some of my family members always thought I was seriously lacking in my non-existent zest for football, alcohol, recreational drugs, the bar scene, the daring. My mother, who had more than a small problem with nymphomania, thought I was born at the age of 40. Certainly she had no respect for a daughter who liked to read. Really, being an introvert has served me well and kept me away from many of those places where people are likely to gamble with their money, their health, their resources, their bodies. I am not boasting, to be clear. I always envied people who could just to out and “have a good time”. But it’s been many decades since my failure to chug kegs has puzzled people.
My light is flickering but I am certainly reaping the rewards of my investment in education. Reading and listening to music and kissing cats. That’s what I was like when Eisenhower was president and my education has sustained my interest in many topics.
Sometimes I have a little fantasy: what would my quarters look like if everything came alive?!! If all the bookcases turned to trees, if all the books and papers returned to their previous incarnation. If that food in the refrigerator—the milk. How many cows? What did they look like?
I imagine this collection of stuff going back to its beginnings—some tiny calves; many trees; cotton coerced from the ground; the tea from China and the ink from Japan and the pictures from France.
I look at my books and see Thomas Mann bedded down between Wilkie Collins and Iris Murdoch. My poetry is in disarray: look at Sophie Hannah cuddling with Ben Jonson! “Eugene Onegin” is placed between two Barbara Pym novels. How puzzling for a Pym heroine to see the cold-hearted Onegin turn his back on a warmly offered macaroni cheese.
I have some odd little niches: I always like to buy sheets and pillow-cases that represent cowboy culture with spurs and boots.
I am, of course, not the only Salmagundi spirit around. But my rooms rhyme so much with the way they looked almost 70 years ago. Music, books, cats. I hope I don’t sound smug—one can only lead an unquiet existence in this world of savage inequality where 600 narcissistic billionaires are accounted to be of much greater importance than the 15 million (or more) children living in poverty. Or the 2.1 million native Americans.
Frankly, I’m glad I don’t have any money to speak of. I read that one of our billionaires (and not our wealthiest) earns $23,148 per minute and about $32 million each day. I cannot think of one single item I could buy that would offer ease and solace in my old age that I am capable of enjoying.