Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Destinations, Old Friends

Tonight I took a bus downtown to see philosopher/writer Alain de Botton at the central branch of the Seattle Public Library, talking about his new book the Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. As a new work person in the whole work world, I was interested in his philosophical thoughts about the concept of work and why and how we do what we do.

Getting to my stop quite early, I had the chance to discover a new bookshop downtown. Arundel is a bookish bookshop, the sort that Belle from Beauty and the Beast would frolic in with a set of lovely but fearful stairs curling up to a loft in a spiral (I thought I might fall off, or my skirt would fly up.)

Very tall shelves, little nooks, dust jackets, the smell of old spines, the books priced a little higher than I would have anticipated, but the ambience was worth it. Nearly late for the reading, I dashed up the very steep four blocks to the library, which is a very impressive and sterile and ugly example of Scandinavian-chic (in my uneducated opinion).

I arrived just in time and sat down all fluttery from the exertion (how unfit I am) wishing I had had more time in Arundel, thinking I will have to go back soon and wondering how on earth to pronounce the author’s name. Apparently no one else knew either, but they all gave it varying amounts of French accent.

The lecture was fantastic. De Botton was erudite and interesting, and he very keenly demonstrated his own curiosity with the world, whether it concerned philosophy, religion, literature, or how tuna is distributed and consumed in Great Britain. He talked about the recent social stress on the importance of being happy in one’s profession (as opposed to Aristotle’s concept of a wage conferring slavery upon one), about how little we know about each other’s work habits, though it’s what we spend most of our time doing, and how we continue to treat our work as a drudge and not a fascinating topic of discussion. I can’t wait to pick up a copy of his book.

I lined up after the lecture to have my copy of the Art of Travel autographed. In the awkward absence of natural conversation, I burst out that I read the Art of Travel when I was travelling home this past January and somehow everything I read about popped up in my surroundings, and I happened to read the chapter about Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport when I was at Schiphol, all the way down to the precise gate (F4). He nodded with reserved encouragement and I took this to mean that he had absolutely no idea what he had written in this chapter about Schiphol and how much he kindly wished that I would just thank him and move politely on towards the exit.

Regardless, I am home to drink my nightly cup of coffee and enjoy my days not working.

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