wanting gentle beauty and the slow unfold of time




I wonder sometimes about women and what we really want. Downton Abbey, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen ... these are beloved to almost every woman I know (and indeed some men too). Stories of vintage loveliness, of romance, and of sweet apple blossom turning to gold in a tender, sea-scented sunset.

Afternoon tea, making food, caring for children, evenings spent curled up with a scrumptious book.

And yet we are served endless crime drama and lewd comedies on television ... sleek wit with no adjectives in literature ... and heavy white cups of coffee in cafetarias where music plays so loudly you can't hear yourself think.

Is this what we want? It must be, because surely they wouldn't be selling it if women were not buying it? Instead, television producers would be making programmes in the spirit of Downton Abbey. Business owners would be noticing that the one or two old-fashioned teahouses still operating overflow with customers every hour they are open.




It's not about a womanly aesthetic. To me, it seems rather to be about qualities of life which are missing these days in our culture : a certain graceful slowness to the days ... true romance rather than just hooking up ... taking care of oneself, body and soul ... and exploring relationships, in a tone of sincerity, with other people and the natural world.

I don't think these are exclusively feminine qualities. But I do think that there has never been a place for them in the business world, and most of us now are part of that world. The domestic world is shrinking - the sphere women used to manage. I'm not saying women should necessarily return there (or even that they belonged there in the first place) although I will always avow that it is the most important sphere, and someone needs to be steady at its helm. I'm saying rather that the qualities and aesthetics of business - competition, strife, cynicism, speed, mastery, greed, sleek modernism, and so on - have come to completely dominate our culture, and I wonder how much women in particular actually want this, and how much they have simply been forced to adapt.




We actually have little choice but to adapt. For example, I wanted to buy an embroidered tablecloth this week, but they are not available anywhere, unless I happen to chance upon one in a second hand shop. I wanted to find a novel that immersed me in a soft, honest intimacy with nature, and that led me slowly, gently, like a dance, through the romance of its characters. I ended up getting a novel about the Amish. Even my favourite author writes about motorcycle gangs now.

I don't really believe the market gives us what we want. I believe it makes what it wants, for its best profit, and we have no alternative but to buy that.

After all, we need to drink our tea out of something.



15 comments:

  1. People are besically brainwashed into wanting what they're given and then everyone is swept away with the crowd. And nobody even realises there are other options.

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    1. Brainwashed, yes, I do think so.

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  2. I don't watch any tv, so I never watched Downtown Abbey. I have cable, but don't use it. My daughter watches one show Jackson Galaxy's cat rescue show. That's it. I don't understand what has happened to the world, or maybe I do, and I realize the only thing we have is own own world and our own circles to make a difference. xoxo Su

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    1. "I realize the only thing we have is own own world and our own circles to make a difference." This is so true. Thank you <3

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  3. I feel we're being told what's important, what has value, and gentleness, and beauty isn't part of it. Instead we're told to be bold and loud and sexy, and only depend on ourselves. I too feel I have to search to find the stories that touches me, to find beautiful, sacred things, old treasures. It's so good you're writing, giving a voice to beauty :)

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    1. Yes, everything you said here, so true. Its sad that we're taught we must be utterly self-dependant (unless we need help that we can buy from a professional).

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  4. Your shots breathe beauty and gentleness!

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  5. I agree with everything you wrote in this post and also what your commenters have added, too. I especially love this thought:

    "It's not about a womanly aesthetic. To me, it seems rather to be about qualities of life which are missing these days in our culture : a certain graceful slowness to the days ... true romance rather than just hooking up ... taking care of oneself, body and soul ... and exploring relationships, in a tone of sincerity, with other people and the natural world."

    I think you make an excellent point about how the qualities of business have come to dominate modern culture. It is a sound explanation of what has happened to romance, gentleness, and dignity in relationships (both human and otherkind), which are now transactional at best and often purely exploitative.

    Being told what is worthy, valuable good by market forces has led to a cultural identity crisis (which I believe is at the root of why anti depression use has become epidemic). People are confused about who they are, about what they like and dislike, and about what can give meaning to their lives. It is sad. And I am not immune.

    But, perhaps I'm just old-fashioned. It seems that many people embrace the harshness (and violence) of the current culture; consider the success of Fifty Shades of Gray, for example.

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    1. I meant to also say that these photos are some of my very favorites--really lovely! ♥

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    2. I think you have written something very important here. We know how cultural identity crises can cause profound damage to native people forced from their traditional way of life. And yet we don't really acknowledge what the cultural changes of recent years may have done to many women (even if they were good changes, they were still significant) - oh, we talk a lot about the struggle women have in balancing work and homelife, and the guilt they feel, but mostly it seems weighted on the side of helping women cope better with working. But talk to young women today and some of them are actually quite unhappy because they don't want to order their lives in terms of Career - infact, they may want "nothing more" than to be mothers and housekeepers, or poets and dreamers, but its not only that this isnt a sensible financial option for most, but they have a huge pile of guilt and shame put on them if they think it.

      (I don't mention men here because my opinion is that Patriarchy has won the culture war.)

      I will never understand the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, except to wonder if it wasn't actually about the sex but about the romance. Such a badly written book, such a terrible narrative - basically an adult's Twilight. Maybe in the end it was just a trend. After all, the copycat books never took off in the same way.

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  6. I started to write about this same thing this morning, but I couldn't find the words to express what you have written here so eloquently. Over the past decade I have purposely slowed and simplified my life, and it's taken a lot of work. The whole conversation about business and government telling us what we want and need is wearing pretty thin. It wouldn't matter except, as you say, because of it, it's difficult to find the things we truly want. I re-read old books, and cherish the linens that have come to me from generations past. I rarely turn on the TV any more -though PBS is still on my radar. Being and introvert keeps me looking for the quiet and gentle spaces and things. Sometimes it feels like my own private battle against the harshness of the world around me.
    I'm so grateful for your blog - and Susan's - and a handful of others. I chose us. I support a softer existence.

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    1. I love your last two sentences. I choose us too :-)

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  7. Wonderful post, Sarah.

    I tossed the T.V. out 15 years ago. I re-read my favorite books and embroider tea towels. I share with others what I've discovered by living simply in a tiny house in the woods, and their eyes light up. Yes - we can have what we want! We just need to start listening to ourselves and ignore all the marketing noise.

    Have a lovely day.

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    1. Thank you. Unfortunately, I can't have what I want. I can't buy porcelain tea cups in the antique style I like, because they aren't sold in shops here and I don't want to be buying them online from overseas. I can't buy embroidered antique style white cotton blouses, and even if I could I wouldn't dare wear them because when I last did that I put up with sniggering from other women. I can't take a friend to tea in a quiet, pretty teahouse, because they barely exist. I can't join other people of the same spirituality as me in group worship, because such groups don't happen here. I can't enjoy wildflowers because my city prefers tidy verges and trimmed hedges. Women like you inspire me, and remind me that I can embroider, and sew, and make my own private library, etc. But marketing noise isn't just noise, it is creating the world outside my door.

      I wish you blessings for your day :-)

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