August 17, 2014

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The truth is that there is much in life to be retired from. I take a small siesta after lunch”€”I find it revivifies my brain for about half an hour”€”but each time I wake up I am a little disappointed to be thrust back into the midst of life. Sleep, especially when dreaming, is so much more enjoyable than being awake, with all the petty tasks that consciousness imposes upon one. The process of keeping myself alive bores me terribly; every morning the same thing, shower, shaving, breakfast, how tedious it all seems!

And then there are the more positive irritations, like noise. A car going by with rock music playing drives me nearly to despair. I don”€™t want to do the washing up, with all that terrible clattering of plates and knives and forks that it entails, but on the other hand the sound of the washing-up machine jangles my nerves. I am the Roderick Usher de nos jours

The desire to retire from life, though, is more widespread than you might suppose. In the days when I was the vulgarity correspondent of a British newspaper I was sent to Ibiza to report on the vile and disgusting behavior of the young British (you could gather enough material to fill an encyclopedia in five minutes). I discovered that the two main so-called nightclubs there were called Manumission and Amnesia: manumission from the slavery of everyday existence and amnesia to the horrors of that existence. I thought the names deeply significant.

If it were not for the fact that the world is endlessly and inexhaustibly interesting, I think I would retire to an institution such as that built in Switzerland for the electrosensitive. How many things there are to avoid in the modern world! (Some of the electrosensitive used to claim to be allergic to the 20th century, a condition with which we can all sympathize). Unfortunately, one of the things that most bores me is consideration of my own health. Hypochondriacs also bore me terribly. No, I”€™ll have regretfully to make the best of the world as it is. As Thomas Carlyle said to the woman who told him that she accepted the universe, “€œMadam, you”€™d better!”€ 

Theodore Dalrymple’s hypochondrical novel, The Examined Life, is available from Monday Books.


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