Aaaaack. Despite hours of proofreading and copyediting and book design, I saw this morning that a line got dropped from Profane Waste—the just-released art book I did in collaboration with my friend, photographer Dana Hoey. I contributed the essay, she contributed 29 photographs.
I had a great time working on this book: it was fun to collaborate with a friend, it was intriguing to be part of the art world, even tangentially, and most of all, it was satisfying to think and write about a subject that has obsessed me for years: why do people destroy their own possessions?
So I love the book tremendously, and it was very disheartening to realize that it contains an obvious mistake. In the past, I would’ve have been overwhelmed with dismay. But I’ve heard two things that helped me stay calm.
First, I read somewhere that the Shakers deliberately introduced some mistake in the things they fashioned, to show that man cannot aspire to the perfection of God. That notion helped me get over the idea that if something wasn’t perfect, it was “ruined.”
Also, my mother told me about some wedding disaster. I can’t even remember what happened: the cake slid sideways, the bride’s veil fell off during the ceremony, something like that. And she remarked, “Well, you know, the things that go wrong end up being the funny stories that people love to tell, years later.” That reminded me that you can laugh at a mistake, instead of cringe.
A further test to my somewhat shaky grasp of this newfound wisdom is the fact that last night, in the space of one hour, the ceiling above the Big Girl’s bed started a leak, and our air-conditioner also developed a big, unrelated leak, then stopped working altogether (a particular blow to the Big Man, who takes a/c very seriously).
I saw the bulge in the ceiling, the puddles, the big wet stain on the Big Girl’s coverlet, and also discovered an odd soggy patch on the carpet, ominously far from any other known drip. I found myself thinking, “My apartment is falling into decay.”
This morning, I’m high-minded enough to invoke the Shakers in the face of defect. Last night, I reached lower to invoke Scarlet O’Hara. I let the Big Girl sleep with me (the Big Man was out of town), put a bucket on her bed, opened some windows to try to get a breeze, and thought, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”
(Here’s the full text of Profane Waste, including the dropped line.)
A thoughtful reader sent me a link to a provocative and funny essay, Seven Reasons Why the 21st Century is Making You Miserable . Of course, understanding why you’re miserable also shows you how you could be happier.