Sunday, November 22, 2015


When talking to Charlie Rose Knausgaard mentioned shame as one of the core experiences he was confronting and seeking to work through as a writer, and that struck a chord in me.

The interior of our 2001 Volvo has some issues:  one of the seats has a split seam, as it has for maybe 5 years now, and the header fabric on the sun roof has been hanging down for some months. None of this should be surprising in a 15-year old car.  Likewise, retractable, solar-powered shades on one of our skylights has been messed up for over a year now. These things bother me, but not Mary.

But when we are having people over for this or that, other things bother Mary. For example, places on the armchair in the living room where the cats have gone to town with their claws, and similar spots on the well-aged couch in our rec room. To say nothing of the cleanliness of our bathrooms. When it is just us in the house, this stuff just rolls right off of us, but when people are coming over we whip into a frenzy of cleaning, hiding, minimizing, remediating.

I had often thought that this behavior was shame-driven on her part, without stopping to consider that I have the same feelings, just with regard to other objects (car, skylight). I am fully on board with the desire to have clean toilets for guests, mind you. At any case, my obsession with the specific instances of decay that bug me vs. the ones that bug her really gets down to basic power struggle and resentments within the marriage and the fact that we don't find time enough between the two of us to talk things through, as we are caught up in our own shit all the time and taking care of the kids.

And yet, what is the shame all about? It is natural that things fall apart, that's just entropy. As good members of the bourgeoisie, deep within ourselves, we feel that we should not let our things fall apart, or that we should not be seen to be letting them fall apart. So you replace things when they display decay. If you don't, the fear is that you are seen to not have enough money to keep your stuff in shape. Hence shame.

So there is a fear of the perception of poverty, but just behind it is the fear of death.

It will be interesting to read more about what Knausgaard has to say.  I have purposefully held off on reading more of his thinking while I did my own.

Yes, as concerns the furniture, one could argue that we should just declaw the cats.  But that's another discussion.

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