Monday, 25 June 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I have decided to let the cat out of the bag. I have been plotting and planning something over the past few months and for some reason unknown to me I have opted to use this forum as my primary declaration of intent.

For roughly three years I ran the Scottish Vampyre Society. Well, perhaps ran is not the appropriate word. Running the SVS was rather like herding cats. My predecessors advocated a strong arm to rule, but I opted for a republic rather than a dictatorship. I had in mind something like the American Republic, but it became more akin to the Roman one. For a while, I found myself pulling the daggers of Brutus and Claudius from my back on a regular basis.

I had difficulty because I could not find a vision for the Vampyre Society, and certainly not a vision that everyone agreed with. People often asked what we did at our meetings, no doubt expecting virginal bloodletting in the basement of the Solid Rock Cafe. In fact we just met once a fortnight, sat around and talked, and had a few events each year such as an Autumnal Ball. There were times when we did not even discuss vampires. After all, for the regular members, there was only so much you could say about vampires. So I chose to branch-out to the Gothic and the Romantic which met with hostility from our "non-goth" members.

Then there was the dress code. The problem with the dress code was that there was none. For those who wanted to be surrounded by the young and beautiful languid creatures of the night there was no escaping the T-shirt and jeans brigade, mostly because no dress code could reasonably be enforced since these people were both members and friends.

That said, there were a handful of members who enjoyed dressing properly and indulging in lengthy intellectual debate on topics related to Goth and the Romantic over a cocktail or glass of wine. When I was approached recently and asked if I would consider reviving the Scottish Vampyre Society I said no chance, but then I thought of that handful of people and my mind began to whirr.

What if I started not a vampire society but a sort of dark romantic society? I recall my friend James once suggested something along those lines. That is when the idea of the Salon came to mind. For more information, here is the Wikipedia link In short, the Salon was a gathering of poets, writers, artists, and philosophers around a charismatic hostess, or occasionally a host, meeting in the common room to discuss various topics. In some salons, these were of a revolutionary or sexual nature depending on the crowd assembled, as in the salon of Ninon de l'Enclos.

Unlike the Scottish Vampyre Society, which I had inherited through my election to the position of convenor, this organisation could have vision and purpose. Like the bohemians in the film Moulin Rouge!, it could promote the Romantic values of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love by encouraging people to pursue these ideals in their lifestyle and creations, as well as educating the young people who desire to learn the ways of the Romantic, and to create a secret world of beauty and civilisation in a storm of barbarous vulgarity.

This vision I have in mind draws from the 19th and early 20th century, particularly Britain, France, and some American influences: from Byron to Baudelaire, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Moulin Rouge, from the Marquis de Sade to Ditta Von Teese. Combining all the sensuality of existence in the pursuit of decadence, humanism in an age of dehumanisation, elitism when mediocrity is the rule, and atheism amidst religious fundamentalism. Some might call this evil, however when virtue becomes evil, then only the evil are virtuous.

Philosophy lies at the root of all human action, and yet not all humans are philosophers. I sincerely doubt that any voracious young man indulging his lust pauses for a brief moment to assess how his actions live-up to the Greek hedonistic ideals. And yet this philosophy is there unaware like the hidden foundations of a building. One need not be an architect to live in a house, but he should have some understanding if he intends to build one. When we look at the spirit of any age and trace its inception, we find some small group of men and women sharing thoughts in a salon, coffee house, or pub. From here the memes spread to infect society until everyone becomes taken by the zeitgeist without anyone knowing how it came to be. Who was the first to dance the dance before everyone else joined in?

I find myself at war. War is a conflict. Sometimes wars are fought over physical territory and sometime over ideology, and yet not everyone is a soldier. Not everyone is committed to an ideal without compromise. Not everyone is a fighter, an idea-maker, a debater, or a persistent and consistent thorn. However there are others who are born to it. They clear the way for others to settle.

I want to draw unto me others who believe as I believe. Who feel as I feel. I want to rally the troops to the coffee house. The beautiful thing about this war is that no fighting is really necessary. Just being true to your values in the face of social convention and ignorance. Just enjoy yourself and don't give-up. Don't settle for second best. Aspire towards personal greatness and claim that greatness as your own.

I do not need just anybody. I am not looking for bodies to fill seats as we did in the Scottish Vampyre Society. And no doubt I can find many beautiful people blessed with elegance and style to partake in such a venture. But what I need are intellectuals, artists, and living works of art that transcend the vulgarity of modernity within their daily routines and are willing to encourage others to do the same. People who make a mark.

Without further ado, I am pleased to announce the Glasgow opening of Le Salon de Mal within the coming months – by invitation only I'm afraid. I appreciate such a thing is possible on the internet, and there may well be a Myspace site in the works, but virtual verisimilitude is not reality. As soon as I find a handful of people, then the revolution can begin in earnest and usher in some future Belle Epoque.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

What is Your Pleasure, Sir?

One thing that I have learned in studying the way of the Romantic is how contrary its ways are to my Christian upbringing. I had the problem of too much faith. Most self-professed Christians have the good sense to temper their faith with Reality. They know that in life you get what you work for, whereas I believed that God would provide all that I required and all the tools that He required for me to fulfil his divine plan. The result was that I never learned the skills and tactics necessary for a successful life.

Along these lines, I believed that the physical world was irrelevant. It was a necessary burden to carry until we transcend to the reality of the Heavenly Kingdom. As a result, I denied the physical. When the beauty of St. Peter's Basilica surrounded me all I could see were the peasants conned through the selling of indulgences to pay for it. I was the kind of person Oscar Wilde referred to in his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, when he wrote, "those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.

Perhaps another factor was the transient nature of the physical. At a young age I realised that the toys that brought so much joy on Christmas morning were little more than junk at the bottom of the toy box by June. In love, the woman who worships the ground you walk-on one day and swears eternal love decides the next day that you are no better than the dirt under her feet and trades you in for another model. Then there were the unfulfilled desires and the accompanying disappointment. However, in the realm of the mind, all fantasy becomes reality. They are constant and true, require no effort, there is no failure to achieve, and these dreams can never forsake you. No wonder I came to value the realm of the idea over reality. It is a potent drug.

There was another influence. When I was growing-up in Los Angeles, there seemed to be an obsession with "fun". "Was it fun?" "Did you have fun?" "This will be fun." I was a goth goddamit. We don't do "fun". Fun is the pursuit of the shallow empty-headed creatures polluting the Malibu coastline. In my prejudice, alternative rejection of mainstream values, and of course a desire to be cool and completely unmoved, I rejected the pursuit of fun and just got-on with the burden of existence. Besides, I had a higher, enlightened, spiritual calling. I had no time for fun and base-physicality. Boy, did I get it wrong.

There is another aspect of physicality – the sexual nature of human existence. On one level I saw it as something that a man does to a woman to satisfy his carnal desires at her expense. This was reinforced by the popular image of the man who, once satiated, rolls over and falls asleep. I never wanted to be seen as such a man. Then there is the concept of the gentleman who does not take liberties with a woman. On another level, I saw sex as a divine act leading to the union of two souls. Beyond that, I saw true love as more Platonic and almost familiar in nature and beyond the base physicality of mere sex.

I am writing this anti-pleasure mentality out very clearly and precisely, but this ideology was not always completely clear and precise to me. As children we are thrown into this thing called reality and seek to identify and understand all the things that we find under the sun. Once labelled, these concepts are filed and automatised as part of our preconceptual worldview. Such concepts are the invisible hands pulling our strings and only reveal themselves through our feelings. The test is to go deep and discover these preconceived notions and challenge them in the light of new understanding.

I find humour in the expression, "I know my own mind" or any variation of it. From watching Derren Brown and studying some pop-psychology, I have come to the conclusion that most of us do not know our own mind. Half the time, our minds are up to no good behind our backs. That is why it is important to understand our feelings and motivations.

I had moved beyond these ideas of sex on a conscious level, but not on a pre-preconceptual level, which is the source of the feelings driving our actions (and our sexuality). While trying to embrace the here-and-now rational hedonism of the Romantic, I was being restrained emotionally by the preconceptual expectations of my religious upbringing and a fear/worry of the potential consequences of my actions. I had become the Push-me Pull-you from Dr. Doolittle trying to move in two opposite directions at once.

The pursuit of pleasure seems so natural. Human emotions probably developed from our primitive impulses involving the acquisition of food and sex as essential values. The constant pursuit of values still drives us, though now our values and the emotions they evoke are far more complex. I would agree with the Epicureans, though I would argue for a rational hedonism that promotes long-term and consistent pleasure through the acquisition of values rather than risking everything positive for the pleasure of the moment or the "if it feels good, do it" mentality.

However, most religions advocate the rejection of the physical as a path to spirituality and this has permeated most secular approaches to morality. We are therefore trained to reject pleasure on moral grounds while simultaneously we pursue pleasure as a basic human need. This contradiction must find resolution in the psyche.

One way that the mind accomplishes this is by compartmentalisation of the psyche. It is almost like multiple personality without the psychotic aspect. People do not have one unified personality. We are multifaceted beings. Sometimes we assign beliefs to one aspect of ourselves that are contrary to those that we assign to another. For example, the corrupt lawyer is one personality when he is at work and another when he is at church. This is not a conscious hypocrisy, but hypocrisy nonetheless. He must address and find resolution to these conflicting belief systems.

In my case, I developed an internalised sex life. This allowed me to preserve the sanctity of the love I felt for my partner while still satisfying my sexual impulses in a private, clean, sanitised, and easily hidden reality of the mind. Any proper Romantic would be disgusted by my behaviour. I was rejecting the pleasure and beauty of reality for soul-destroying fantasy. As with the corrupt lawyer, I was operating on a preconceptual level that I never reconciled with my conscious beliefs. The psychological affects and consequences of this pattern of behaviour have been catastrophic for me during the course of my life, which I have only recently come to understand.

I appreciate that I am sharing rather personal information to complete strangers, my dear reader, however, I believe it to be an important point to share. I am not the only person to have suffered from the repression of the natural drives towards pleasure in the name of a moral code completely divorced from reality. The solution is to develop and ingrain a new moral code more in keeping with reality.

If we hold that there is no God and no afterlife, then the pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of values becomes the primary purpose of existence and the repression of this impulse serves only to devalue existence. How horrible it is for me to discover that the life is about fun. The shallow mundanes of my youth were right. The one with the most toys does win. The purpose of morality then is to create a code of conduct conducive to this pursuit happiness, whatever happiness means to you, and we must ensure that our preconceptual beliefs are consistent with our conscious beliefs to allow us to achieve that happiness.

Returning to my personal example, I have learned that sex is not something that men do to women rather it is a shared act intended for mutual pleasure. It is a gift a man gives to a woman as much as it is a gift a woman gives to a man. In an exclusive relationship, it is the glue that binds the couple together as an expression of their union and their love. It is a man's way of telling a woman that she is desirable and that she is loved and can therefore feel loved by him exclusively above all women. In this regard, the gentleman is the man who indulges her desire for pleasure and not the man who withholds it with miserly disregard.

This last statement reminds me of something I read in Philosophy in the Boudoir by the Marquis de Sade. " a man saying something disagreeable to you when he reveals his desire to enjoy you? Absolutely not! He's paying you a compliment! Then why respond with insult and abuse? Only a moron could think in those terms....But the world is populated by dull imbeciles who believe that you are being disrespectful when you confess to them that you find them suitable for pleasure." I myself think that a gentleman may compliment a woman by expressing this sentiment provided the context is appropriate and manner charming. I think few women would find a statement like, "I gotta get me some of that" from a fat, drunken fool to be desirable.

I have come to believe that sex can be devoid of love, but romantic love cannot be devoid of sex. Confusing this issue often can lead to confusion and pain. Someone may feel loved when they are not or they may feel unloved when they are. This is also why relationships often end due to sexual problems. It is not the act itself, but the role of sex in the relationship as an expression of love that is important.

It has been said that men are torn between the archetypes of the Madonna and the Whore. On the one hand a man wants the pure woman to raise his children and on the other he wants the sexy woman who gives him pleasure. Likewise, women want to be both respected and desired. I found myself morally against viewing a woman as the "whore" despite my male desire and encouraging my perception of her as the elevated Madonna on a pedestal. I recently disovered that in the past the more I came to love a woman, the less I desired her sexually. There was this ingrained belief that it was wrong to view someone you loved as an object of your lust. The trick is to attain a balance. The question is not a choice between the Madonna or the Whore, for a woman must be both the Madonna and the Whore to her partner.

I have had four major relationships in my life. I believe that I had varying degrees of love for each of these women. However, each of these relationships ended in less than two years. I have thought long and hard on all the myriad reasons why they failed when less loving couples seem to persist beyond reason. Was it me? Was it her? Was it money? Was it maturity? Of course there is no one reason but the dynamic of two people caught in a dance, however I believe the pivotal reason stems from my rejection of pleasure due to my religious programming, repression, and the negative habits born in my attempts to reconcile my inner contradictions. Not just sexually, but a complete withdrawal from physical space into the realm of my mind. One might say I was too self-absorbed in my own thoughts to really enjoy life and therefore my life with the women I loved. Once more I must tip my hat to the long-suffering muse who taught me this valuable life lesson despite my resistance.

Some Romantics were raised free from the constraints of religion and encouraged in their pursuit of happiness. Then there are those like me who must struggle to break free of the shackles restraining them and learn how to exists as free men must exist, without fear of reality. Ultimately, it is fear that causes people to hide within themselves rather than engage reality. Idealism promotes the act of entering into your mind as a retreat from reality, whereas Romanticism promotes a constant engagement of reality in the endless pursuit of pleasure, real pleasure with all the benefits to soul, body, and mind that comes from it.

Friday, 8 June 2007

What's In A Name?

Today the Oxfam workers were harassing people on Buchanan Street. They did not want money, just names and addresses. Supposedly this information was not to be used for junk mail. So what on earth would they want with the names of people declaring, "I'm in", as the T-shirts of the bouncing college students proclaimed?

There are different forms of power, the means of working your will in the world. The most common is money. Another is people. The individual is a commodity to be used by religions, political groups, companies, and even charities. By showing these names, Oxfam is essentially declaring to whomever they choose to influence, for whatever purpose, that they have power in the form of these signatories.

Now there is a theory, I call it a theory simply because I do not know if it is true, that Oxfam is doing more than trying to feed starving African children. That much of their work centres on political change, and these changes are largely Marxist in nature. Suppose this is true. How many signatories would a "Marxism for Africa" campaign acquire as opposed to feeding cute little children?

My point is that whether or not the theory is true, the public had no problem putting their names to a data sheet for some purpose unknown, even to the students soliciting them. I began to wonder. What is a name worth?

In the film Kate and Leopold, the Duke of Albany finds himself transported from 1876 New York to the year 2001. Leopold finds himself cast in a television commercial selling Farmer's Bounty, a low-fat margarine. Upon tasting the product during the filming, his face betrays his disgust and he declares it to taste like saddle soap. With this discovery, he refuses to put his name to the product to the frustration of the director. "It's a paycheque pal." The scene, and the argument with Kate that follows, illustrates how eager we are to compromise our names for the right price. He says," What has happened to the world? You have every convenience, every comfort, yet no time for integrity."

I could not help but think of Leopold as I witnessed these people placing their names on this list so thoughtlessly. What then is the value of one's name to be thrown around in such a manner? Of course their name is but one of thousands on a list, but it is their name and they should value it.

In Gaelic, and a few other languages as well, the word for name and soul are the same word, ainm. Your name is more than just a label, it is your soul manifested in language. In English, the word name is also used to mean reputation.

The Victorians held their reputation as a high value. It was something to be protected, defended, and enriched through their actions. Generally, they did nothing that would bring their good name into disrepute and worked to strengthen it. You might say that they were demonstrating loving care for their soul. This reminds me of the film Rob Roy in which the title character defined honour to his sons as "a gift a man gives to himself".

Of all the values, of all those things that we hold important, that we merit worthy of our energies, the primary is our existence itself. We eat, we sleep, and we sustain our biological forms. But existence is not about the flesh. It is about the soul ingrained within that flesh.

I should note, dear reader, that by soul I am referring to that psycho-emotional essence defining that which is uniquely you. It is what Ayn Rand called the Sense of Life, "a preconceptual equivalent of metaphysics. A subconsciously integrated appraisal of man's nature and the nature of reality, summing up one's view of man's relationship to existence. The integrated sum of man's basic values." This sense of life is your sense of life, your sense of what it means to be you and the nature of world in which you exist.

So your soul should be your most valued possession, to cultivate, nurture, and protect as the source of your Pride, your Name, your Reputation, and your Honour. But how often do we as humans take this treasure for granted and throw it carelessly away? Such as in the name of some misguided morality or when some people, so desperate to be loved, give their heart away carelessly and are left feeling empty or humiliated for the loss of it.

Another common metaphor for the soul is the heart and the blood that pumps through it. We speak of someone putting his life's blood into an endeavour. We may give our heart to another and perhaps feel the terrible pain when our soul feels torn asunder during periods of heartbreak. In our stories, the vampire draws life from the blood of another, draining their soul of its essence.

Over the past six months I have been learning gradually the value of my soul having spent long hours in solitude, contemplation, and self-assessment. I have faced all the sins that I have committed. Not sins against man, but sins against myself born of a lack of will and emotional discipline.

I recently heard a tale of a man who would probably not be regarded as a virtuous by most standards. When told of his life and antics he struck me as a modern Libertine who is suited more to one of the Marquis de Sade's plays than to the reality most of us experiences. No experience, whether it be pleasure or pain, was to be avoided, and to truly live then both must be experienced and embraced in equal measure.

His daughter spoke of many occasions watching him cast a woman from his villa with tears in his eyes. This image spoke to me. How often are we willing to do the right things when it causes us pain? How often to we seek to avoid the pain of today and only increase it a hundred fold down the road? I have never been one for feeling the pain today to be happy tomorrow. I would often take the easy road and find later that the cost was too great.

The act of living according to one's standards or moral code for the benefit of one's existence is the very definition of virtue. So in a simple incident of a Libertine casting-out a woman, despite his pain but for the good of his soul, I find the meaning of virtue. It is by living a virtuous life despite those tough decisions that we earn the right to Pride.

I want to stress that virtue is not about living according to an externally imposed moral code. It is about living according to your moral code. It is virtue that allows us to look into the mirror every morning with pride and not guilt. As for modern morality, when virtue becomes evil, then only the evil are virtuous.

The ancient Hindus preached the importance of the harmony of Dharma, Artha, and Kama in ones life and the need to devote time and energy to each. Dharma is the spiritual journey, Artha the material journey, and Kama being that of love and pleasure. Sir Richard Burton in his translation of the Kama Sura equated these to Virtue, Wealth, and Love. Of these, both Wealth and Love are at service to the Soul, for neither can stand in one's life without the strong foundation born of a virtuous soul.

Do not pour your life's blood into causes without merit, nor should you give so great a gift as your heart to the unworthy or unappreciative. For a true man of honour, the kind once called gentleman, would never demean his soul in such a manner.

In researching a blog – yes dear reader, occasionally I do research – I found this article from the National Review dated 19 April 1999 called Paying for Beauty - motion picture 'Titanic' misrepresents the social codes of the wealthy.

Yet Cameron-who, as I say, did his homework-knows that there were many true gentlemen in first and second class who indeed, according to their code of behavior, "did the right thing." For example, we see in a cameo shot Isidor Strauss and his wife. They are lying together on a bed in their stateroom, waiting for death. Cameron knows that their real story is more complicated and much more poignant.

Isidor Strauss created the great department store Macy's. In his late 60s, rich and retired, he toured Europe with his wife. They were now heading home on the Titanic. As the ship sank, Mrs. Strauss was allowed to board a lifeboat. She pleaded that her elderly husband be allowed to board too. This was allowed. But Mr. Strauss refused to board. He said, "I will not go before the other men." That was that. She said that she had spent her life with him and would not leave him now. She stepped out of the boat, and they sat on deck chairs to watch others load.

The point here is that the upper-class gentleman's code of that era was deeply felt and sternly enforced. It involved "setting an example" for the rest of society. When things went wrong, one bore it with stoicism, or irony, or humor. Perhaps above all, one was deferential to women.

Col. John Jacob Astor, whose ancestors first earned their money in fur trading, also makes a cameo appearance in Titanic. He was traveling with his second wife, young and pregnant. She pleaded that he be let into a lifeboat with her. Second Officer Lightoller refused: "Women only." Without complaint, Astor withdrew. Apparently while swimming in the ocean he was crushed by tons of steel as one of the funnels tilted and crashed. Benjamin Guggenheim, of the great steel fortune, met a similar fate and asked a departing passenger to tell his wife he had died "like a gentleman."

It is possible that Cameron intuited that a modern audience would scarcely believe that any such code of honor existed. Yet I think he never considered for a moment trying for genuine complexity here, because he had a very different, more up-to-date ideal in mind: that of Jack Dawson.

Where have all the gentlemen gone indeed? Surely at the very core of the gentleman beats the heart of a man who knows himself and his place in the world with full acceptance and without complaint. His first love is self-love and upon that solid rock is built a name of which he endeavours through his actions to be proud. A name he will not compromise for love, or money, or even life itself.

I may close with clichéd admonitions such as "Know Thyself" or "be true to yourself". A cliché is a truth rubbed smooth from use, and both statements are worthy of constant use. However, I shall end this rant with a simple, common farewell, "Take care of yourself". After all, you are your most prized possession.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Kingdom of Delight

I was watching Memoirs of a Geisha, yet again, and a particular phrase stuck in my mind. The US Army colonel says to Sayuri "But here you make everything a ritual don't you?" and she replies "That is the art of turning habit into pleasure, Colonel."

When I wrote in a previous blog that the "right woman" for me would be a geisha or courtesan type I had many elements of those roles in mind, but all of them have the concept of pleasure in common. When people think of geishas and courtesans they usually think of sex. Fair dues, but sex is but one aspect of pleasure. Geisha does after all mean artist, and likewise the courtesans were well versed in music, poetry, literature, conversation, and countless other arts. All with the intention of making life pleasurable.

In Victorian society, the man's domain was the world of work, commerce, business, and production, while the women ruled over the domestic realm bringing beauty, pleasure, culture, and art to their living environment. Is it any wonder that the Woman lies at the heart of Romance? The Romantic is all about the pursuit of pleasure.

One of my fascinations is semiotics, the study of signs. By reading the signs of our civilisation we can peek into the subconscious of our society. Go to a major street in your city and watch the people. See how they dress. Look at how they present themselves to the world. Peek into their value system through the choices they made.

Yesterday, I saw something very funny. A young man and woman walking up the street and he was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Kill the Rich". The thought suddenly occurred to me in regards to his female companion. "This man has no prospects". If that is his attitude towards the acquisition of wealth, then she had best get use to penury, and perhaps even the idea of supporting him.

Jeans, denim, and T-shirts are among my favourite pet hates because of the uniform ubiquitousness of them. If we look at the history of these garments we find their origins lie in the working class. Jeans, for example, were originally created for miners in the 19th century American frontier. It wasn't long before the cowboys adopted the trousers for their ranch work. During the 1950's, costume designers for James Dean, the Rebel Without a Cause, chose to put the character in jeans to demonstrate his rugged individualism, qualities associated with the cowboys who wore them, and thus inspired America's latest contribution to human culture – the teenager. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's jeans typified the rebellion of an entire generation, but from the late 70's throughout the 80's jeans became sexy, thanks to Brooke Shields' backside. Today everyone owns jeans, except me and two other people I know. They have become a global uniform for humanity whose growth in popularity seems to perfectly coincide with the gradual decline of the Romantic values I hold dear. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Time for the personal anecdotes. For the most part, I stopped wearing jeans when I was thirteen. I kept an eye towards fashion, but generally my developing self saw personal image as a tool to convey my sense of self. This was my Indiana Jones phase where I copied 1930's fashions. However, this sense did not really extend too far beyond myself.

My domain was the realm of the mind and spirit and I devalued the physical world as a passing necessity to simply get through. This was compounded by a lifestyle on the move. I never kept more stuff than I could fit into the back of my car, mostly because I moved every three years. Then I made the great move to Scotland. This proved such a disaster that the last thing I wanted was to move. I wanted permanence and stability. I was tired of furnishing my apartment or flat with whatever I was lucky enough to get my hands on. I wanted a home.

I had long envied the homes of others, but it was always a great mystery to me. It was like looking at a blank page. It was for me to fill my home, but how and with what? Such activities force you to go inside yourself and find your personal aesthetic. In essence to discover who you are represented in physical form through these manifestations of your soul.

Then I met a girl who transformed the way I thought about the physical world. She had a talent for taking the conceptual values in her mind and making them a reality. She was a creator of worlds within worlds. As she had a natural talent for such things, she never valued the skill, but to me she created paradise with no more than a few touches. The time I spent in her world ranks as among the happiest times in my life. Now upon me is the burden of doing the same for myself. I must learn from her example and create the universe in which I want to dwell.

I have come a long way from the person who rejected physicality for the spiritual. The pleasures of existence that I once snubbed in favour of the safer domains of my consciousness I now fully embrace. Those things I once admired from a distance are now those things I seek to become.

The world that we create for ourselves is the gift of delight given to ourselves and to our loved ones. The clothes and decor we choose, the food we eat, the lifestyle we embody are all celebrations of self. In the film Kate and Leopold, Leopold says, "Where I come from the meal is the result of reflection and study. Menus are prepared in advance timed to perfection. It is said, without the culinary arts the crudeness of reality would be unbearable." The same may be said of the other simpler arts of hearth and home. But all this is abandoned in our age of denim, ready meals, strip malls, and Ikea. We have lost the Art of Living.

So here I am a gentleman pushing forty reading decorating books and watching fashion shows trying to learn all the things I once ignored. My ideal is to find a woman with the power to bring pleasure, beauty, and ritual into my life so that I might savour the fullness of this existence and enjoy every bite. Someone to create a refuge for us against the vulgarity of a denim world that pronounces mediocrity or camp self-expression as virtues. However, that not being available at present, I must learn to create my own kingdom of delight.