Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How to live, by Sir David Tang

I used to have the feeling that if I ever met Sir David Tang then I would not get on with him. I confess that this was never a cause of any great sadness on my part, but still, one doesn't like to worry about such things.

I warmed to Sir David somewhat on finding out that he has translated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into Chinese (even the 'square sweets that look round' bit) but still I felt that we would end up slightly at cross-purposes if ever we met. That we wouldn't quite 'click', so to speak.

But now my fears have been effaced completely. This is cracking stuff. Sir David Anthony Prise Wing-Cheung Tang, KBE, OBE, Chevalier l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, DSc, BA is a man who knows how to live. By which I mean, how to deal with the stuff which surrounds us in life.

The piece (with the best photographs of drawers I have ever seen) is a conversation between him and Lucy Kellaway, who loves de-cluttering and minimalism. Sir David knocks that nail right on the head:

- the "dubious principle of joy through decluttering. Doesn’t that make you a slave to possessions when possessions should be our slaves?"

- "Just think of the anticlimax of opening a large drawer only to find, as I did in your set of drawers next to your bed, just a few rolled up bundles of your husband’s monochromatic underpants — and a half empty drawer. If you opened mine, it would offer you a whole range of socks: from thick to thin, from long to short, from wool to cotton, from black to white, from yellow to blue, from plain to patterned. It’s like Aladdin’s cave and who wouldn’t want to stumble into Aladdin’s cave?"

- "... we keepers of possessions are free from any fetters — we have no urgency to get rid of anything at any time. ... If the price of this is to have a drawer jammed full of socks which might never see the light of day then I draw comfort from the fact that our ocean floors are buried with immense biodiversity of which we know nothing."

- "we love the serendipities and sense of frisson arising from the sudden discovery of things we had long forgotten. These are sensations you miss out on because you have thrown away most of your things and will never suddenly come across them again, and if you do remember any of them, you can only wallow in nostalgia and regret."

What a man!

The only problem now is that a new slight sadness has entered my heart accompanying the knowledge that Lucy Kellaway, for whom previously I had nothing but respect, is a person with flaws. But she has a dresser that might just open the door to enlightenment.

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