My wish for all of us in 2014 is that we keep being limitlessly inspired.
And may this inspiration bring to life new dreams and projects.
Recent weeks have been filled with reunions of all kinds. As an expat, I cherish these cohorts of family and friends in warm and cozy settings. Unsurprisingly in such a social context I often encounter the question “What’s next?”. The standard outline of any sort of undertaking being as it is – with a beginning, middle and well-constructed and smart end – the question becomes inevitable.
Yet I am of the opinion that knowing how the novel ends relieves us of the need to read the damn thing in the first place! Therefore, although it may be quite tempting to set my plan’s compass to a decisive and smart north, I’d much rather continue to wander for as long as necessary and only then consult the map of my conclusions. Until that time, I will enjoy every step and keep myself (and the well-meaning cohorts) surprised!
There is however an upcoming chapter… Providing that the visa stars align in my favour, I will be heading to an exotic new destination in the next few weeks.
Until then, I am taking a reminiscent literary stroll through some of my favourite author’s lines which, over the years, have planted endless seeds of inspiration in my head and kept me dreaming of wonderful worlds far beyond the boundaries of the everyday.
First on the list – George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London”.
Having worked in practically all aspects of the catering business while studying, I loved reading Orwell’s intricate and raw descriptions of his time in a Parisian restaurant. Although set in the 1920s, his observations are timeless.
Orwell describes the “disgusting filth” of the restaurant kitchen and continues: “(…) There was no time to sweep the floor till evening, and we slithered about in a compound of soapy water, lettuce-leaves, torn paper and trampled food. A dozen waiters with their coats off, showing their sweaty armpits, sat at the table mixing salads and sticking their thumbs into the cream pots. The room had a dirty, mixed smell of food and sweat.”
A caricature, but certainly not too far from the truth!
But Orwell goes further and explores what meaning (or lack thereof) of this type of work (in this case, that of a “plongeur”)… In adopting the voice of a “rich man”, he states: ” ‘We know that poverty is unpleasant; in fact, since it is so remote, we rather enjoy harrowing ourselves with the thought of its unpleasantness. But don’t expect us to do anything about it. We are sorry for you lower classes, just as we are sorry for a, cat with the mange, but we will fight like devils against any improvement of your condition. We feel that you are much safer as you are. The present state of affairs suits us, and we are not going to take the risk of setting you free, even by an extra hour a day. So, dear brothers, since evidently you must sweat to pay for our trips to Italy, sweat and be damned to you.’ ”
Some of his criticism of this particular profession may be outdated, but what strikes me mostly is a later passage where Orwell talks about our perception of work in general. Being myself in a re-evaluation of how I want career, job, passions and occupations to weave in the fabric of my life, any glimpse in someone else’s assessment is welcomed.
The author says this on the subject: “In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modem talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except ‘Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it’? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modem people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.”
Beggars or not, we will all at one time or another put into question what we do and for what purpose.
And, for no purpose at all but the yearning of my hand and hopefully the pleasure of your viewing, here is a little portrait I did of the man himself (although for some reason I left out the moustache and he ends up looking like John Malkovich instead…)
Thank you for reading and a happy new year to all. x