Sparks of Joy

Thursday, May 14, 2015



I haven't read Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but since everyone is talking about throwing away paper because "it's depressing," and keeping only the things that "spark joy," I feel like I've read it. I love these ideas and recently went through my filing cabinet, throwing away 80% of its contents, including, I later realized when I had to rummage through the trash for a non-joy sparking but important paper, the title to my car.

Applying those same ideas to my bookshelf, I managed to cull the herd by at least half (goodbye, adolescent collection of early 20th Century etiquette books, Miss Piggy's Guide to Life, and ha-ha funny memoirs by people who may or may not be sex offenders). One book that survived the cut is The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, which I started reading the other night after I finished the P.D. James novel that's been lulling me to sleep lately. As I read it last night, I realized that Kondo's ideas of joy and letting go of possessions aren't all that original: 


    "Ah, I expect you'll be wanting to pay for that paper, then, won't you, Mr Dirk, sir?" said the newsagent, trotting gently after him.
    "Ah, Bates," said Dirk loftily, "you and your expectations. Always expecting this and expecting that. May I recommend serenity to you? A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment. Learn to be one with the joy of the moment."
    "I think it's twenty pence, that one, sir," said Bates, tranquilly.
    "Tell you what I'll do, Bates, seeing as it's you. Do you have a pen on you at all? A simple ball-point will suffice."
    Bates produced one from an inner pocket and handed it to Dirk, who then tore off the corner of the paper on which the price was printed and scribbled "IOU" above it. He handed the scrap of paper to the newsagent.
    "Shall I put this with the others, then, sir?"
    "Put it wherever it will give you the greatest joy, dear Bates, I would want you to put it nowhere less. For now, dear man, farewell."
    "I expect you'll be wanting to give me back my pen as well, Mr Dirk."
    "When the times are propitious for such a transaction, my dear Bates," said Dirk, "you may depend upon it. For the moment, higher purposes call it. Joy, Bates, great joy. Bates, please let go of it."
    After one last listless tug, the little man shrugged and padded back toward his shop.

The Long, Dark, Tea-Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams

(The New York Times called Kondo a "zen nanny," and the Wall Street Journal hailed her as a "fairy godmother for socks," which makes me think she may in fact be Douglas Adams's character.)


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