"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Let It Be–The Impossibility Of Order In A Messy World

“Mussolini made the trains run on time” was co-opted by the Allies in an ironic reference to the dysfunction of the Fascist state.  Not only could Il Duce not make the trains run on time but nothing worked 

There has always been disorder in Italy – strikes called willy-nilly, erratic opening hours, arguments without end, bella figura, drama, family squabbles, flirtations, endless vanity and sexual adventure – and never has anyone ever had the pretension of organizing its impossible helter-skelter

654 Duce Benito Mussolini Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty  Images

Of course order and discipline were at the heart of the Roman Empire – how indeed could the Caesars rule a territory that extended so far and so wide? Roman civil and military organization was legion, adopted by the Catholic Church and the Cosa Nostra.

How Italy evolved into a place with governments formed and toppled with regularity, regional inequality despite Garibaldi, and a devil-may-care dolce vita is a conundrum for historians who look back to the Etruscans and Piedmont tribes for answers. 

Italy is an example of how life should be not as it should not; a rejection of excessive order; a buzz off to the very idea that internal and external logic, organization, and social mapping can lead to a better world.

Perimeters must be set, rules of behavior established, social norms written and respected for communities to manage.

Those ruled by the Pope incorporate Christian rules of behavior.. We become examples of church and state.

Wartime pope film angers Vatican and Jews | Pope Pius XII | The Guardian

We are still individuals, we claim, and normative rules are simply to keep order.

Chambord (Shammy) Bridger had grown up Catholic but as a teenager wanted no part of Catechism, church suppers, stations of the cross, nuns, and confession, so abandoned her faith.  Yet, the Church had done its work and she retained its obligatory sense of order and discipline.  As much as she tried, she could not shake the idea of the principles of an orderly life.  Without knowing where your slippers are in the morning, never running out of sugar, forgetting to set the table, fluffing the sofa cushions, or turning on the porch light, life would be an intolerable place.

For Shammy the pleasure of making lists was only slightly more rewarding than crossing off items as they were completed.  The making and using of lists was almost existential.  Lists controlled an unpredictable world, gave at least temporary order to the indiscipline world outside her door.  Compiling a grocery list, compounding the number of people to be served, mastering the aisles and shelves of the supermarket, labelling drawers and cabinets, arranging drawers and racks felt good and right.  

Seatbelts fastened, floors swept, and thermostats set mitigated influences that could not be controlled – family nastiness, an unpleasant former marriage, the ups and downs of an on-again, off-again working life.  As much as she tried to round the edges of lovers and friends, she ended up hectoring them out of her life.

Billy Baxter was her one-off surprise.  He was an outlier, a ‘wastrel’, a boy without purpose, a sexual daredevil, an impossibly undisciplined boy headed for nowhere in particular and no one that her daughter should associate with; but of course Shammy could not resist. 

Any woman with Shammy’s sense of absolute order and arrangement could possibly resist her antipode.  He was a devilishly bad boy; and the rest was an old chestnut – a life of wishing he would come calling, looking out lace curtains, hoping that he was around the corner.

Easy Rider (1969) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Like most ordered and orderly people, disappointment turned to self-dissatisfaction which turned to even more order and organization.

It is unfortunate that Shammy’s wires got soldered in place so early on. As much as Billy Baxter had given her bits of an emotional enterprise, she simply could not go past his indifference to things that really mattered.

Hindus have solved the puzzle on which Shammy had been so frustratingly diligent.  Order and social inflexibility are gracees and not imprisonment.  Born into a world of caste, social order, and spirituality, there are no lists, checking inventories or dress. All is prescribed and in place.  What could be more satisfying?

Nataraja - Wikipedia

Yet the likes of let-it-be Billy Baxter, lives without a goal was an appealing counter-offer.  Billy had no sense of who he was - no social attributions. Spoons and forks could be mixed in the same tray without consequence, balances could be tipped. Love affairs could begin and end without any measure of regret.  Life was not his doing, so why bother with ordering it?

A measure of Billy’s particular stoicism was an elixir.  Too much complaisance leads to indifference, a damper to pleasure.  Too little philosophical distance leads to excess.  

So it was no wonder that Shammy Bridger had been in love with the wayward Billy Baxter for her whole life; and why he never noticed her.  The twain could never meet in a world of such difference.  Which makes the world go ‘round impossible.  If only the world could be more like her, Shammy Bridger wished.

She ended up well.  One thing about order and discipline is that it helps in old age.  As we begin to forget what’s what, it helps to have lists, spoons and forks in their proper places, and slippers under the bed.

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