Thursday, December 26, 2013

In Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton wrote that Robinson Crusoe:

"Owes its eternal vivacity to the fact that it celebrates the poetry of limits, nay, even the wild romance of prudence.  Crusoe is a man on a small rock with a few things just snatched from the sea: the best thing in the book is simply the list of things saved from the wreck . . .  Every kitchen tool becomes ideal because Crusoe might have dropped it in the sea."

Soon, Chesterton brings his parable around to philosophy:

"That there are two sexes and one sun, was like the fact that there were two guns and one axe. It was poignantly urgent that none should be lost; but somehow, it was rather fun that none could be added."

I think that's one reason I enjoy camping.  Last summer, John, James and I camped at a little lake in the North Cascades, made our dinner, set up our tent: each item (besides the dog) essential.  I laughed uproariously when a sudden breath of wind took our tent away, and cast it into the sea, and James went chasing after it over the snow in his bare feet.  I was glad, though, that we saved that tent from the wreck, and allowed the local mosquitoes to celebrate the poetry of limits.

Now here I am in China, for a long spell, with a limited number of items from home.  I'm surprised at how many of those items have already proved essential.  (Some of which, yes, Mayumi thought of, like the hot chocolate.)  Bedding did not come with the tiny "apartment" I'm staying in, if one can call it that, so the sleeping bag and sheets came in handy.  (I also borrowed a bit more, and bought a tiger blanket to put underneath.)  There's no light by the bed, so the little flashlight lights my way to the door to turn on and off the lights.  I found exactly six clothes pins in my pack, and also some rope from hiking trips, just long enough to stretch between poles to dry clothes, and about as many clothes as I want to wash by hand at one time.  (Smaller items dry by the window: but sheets tend to freeze together outside, it falling into the teens here almost every night, to rise the next day into the 30s.)

It's also rather fun that Orthodoxy came with me.  Kindle and all those screens from which all information in the world is just a click away spoils us.  Maybe the greatest shortage in our Brave New World will be a shortage of limits.  (This is the point I fumbled to express in my debate with Richard Carrier earlier this year -- wow, was that the same year as this?) 

Unfortunately, city kids in Beijing are shown the world through screens, but every bit of wild fun -- skating on frozen lakes, for instance -- is forbidden them, for fear they will drown, or something.  Through excessive fear of death, we may fail to live.

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to buy Chinese books, which are really cheap, and the reading of which led to a curious adventure today, which I'll tell later.