Friday 28 November 2014

What is the real world and would one want to live there?

I just had coffee with a very prosperous Scottish auditor. We were discussing Scotland and he joked that it was the kind of undeveloped country that I would like to visit. When I replied that Dr Johnson's and Boswell's accounts of their journey to the Hebrides are perhaps my two favourite books and I want to retrace their route the auditor said, 
'You don't live in the real world.' 
I remember he also described hearing me praise Ben Jonson to an English lecturer as 'the conversation from hell'. 

Worrying, especially as he belongs to the Scottish business elite and is standing for Parliament in the Conservative interest.

I was reminded that Logan Pearsall Smith said
How awful to reflect that what people say of us is true.
Another man joined us for coffee who is going off to work in Cambodia for a year. I urged him to visit Burma because 
It's untouched by the modern world.
The Scot said
It sounds like you.
The last time someone told me I didn't live in the real world was a cousin of mine about twelve years ago after I said I went shopping for no more than two articles at a time. I reflected, when he said I didn't live in the real world, that I lived in a potholed slum street with its share of beggars and child prostitutes, though it is true that I walked through their world rather than lived in it. 

Strada Blanari and I have gone up in the world since those days. The street is now full of bars and restaurants. 

Logan Pearsall Smith also said 
It is the wretchedness of being rich that you have to live with rich people.
At least I have escaped that fate so far. I cannot decide whether the rich are more interesting than people with good jobs. In very many ways they are, but I obstinately hope that the people with good jobs are more likely to have read Dr. Johnson.

Bill, who has a very good job, if by a good job one means a well-paid rather than an exciting one, told me that he hasn't read a book for twenty years, since he failed to finish a biography of an infamous Scotch hanging judge. I suspect that tastes in reading reveal our hidden criminal tendencies and perhaps a certain bloodthirstiness has taken Bill into a political career in the British Conservative Party. It's true that a less bloodthirsty, more milk-and-water body than the modern Conservatives is pretty hard to imagine, but in Bill's subconscious mind and in his dreams perhaps he is already presiding over Bloody Assizes, sending Scottish Nationalists and other undesirables to the gallows en masse

What is the real world? I think it is a place of absolute beauty and I find this absolute beauty frequently in Bucharest. Reality is in fact something very close to a mystical experience. I am not sure, however, that Bill would necessarily agree.

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