The Sock Fairy: A Complicated Relationship

November 11, 2017


So though the Sock Fairy is my enemy, he or she is also my friend, and my old friend at that. One does not like to lose old friends. Besides, there is always something mysterious about his or her activity; but if it ceased, one would no longer give it a second thought and the world would therefore have become slightly the more prosaic. While the Sock Fairy was still unpairing my socks, I could truly say to myself that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Dalrymple; but with his or her demise, or at least abeyance of activity, there would be one mystery the less to my existence.

And this in turn is discomfiting, for we like there to be mystery to our existence. Mystery implies significance, and if there is nothing mysterious, if nothing occurs to us that is in principle inexplicable, we fear that the day-to-day flux of banal little events that preoccupies us most of the time is all that there is to our lives. That is why some patients, at least, are not as pleased as one might have thought they would be when their disease is diagnosed and explained. A mysterious disease renders them important, mysterious, and enigmatic; a diagnosis and full explanation make them one of the herd.

So on the one hand I wanted an end to the Sock Fairy’s activities, but on the other I did not. For the moment, however, I have the best of both worlds, for I have only ten or twenty pairs of the socks with bright identifying heels and toes, and many others without. I need never run short of perfectly matching pairs of socks, but at the same time the mystery of the Sock Fairy remains at every wash.

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