The Zen, the Tao of Modish Gowns

“Eugenia never wears modish gowns.  She says there are more important things to think of than one’s dresses.”
“What a stupid thing to say!” remarked Sophy. “Naturally there are, but not, I hold, when one is dressing for dinner.”
– The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer

I laughed out loud, as I recall. Easily amused? Maybe. I didn’t get out much as a teenager. But 50 years later, this scene still makes me smile.

At the time, it was a good perspective realignment for a stuffy teenager inclined to take everything, including myself, too seriously.  After all, Eugenia — she of the dull dresses as a matter of principle — was an unattractive character: judgmental, small-minded, unable to enjoy the fun of life, and prone to sucking the fun out for everyone else, too.

Sophy, by contrast, was an engaging, larger-than-life character who did everything in style, whether that was saving a naí¯ve young cousin from a moneylender’s clutches, or dressing for dinner.

However improbable the characters, the message was clear. Forget all self-importance and pomposity, and just be in the moment. Do what each moment demands — what’s important in each situation — and it will all be good. Right?

Sort of. There’s just one thing. Life’s moments don’t just happen: I make choices that shape the situations I’m in and, therefore, what the moment demands of me.

I choose to eat out or to carry meals to shut-ins. To watch TV or an online university course. To meet friends-like-me for a drink or to start a book club in my multicultural community. To edit sales proposals or academic texts. To write fluff or to write my heart.

Not all my choices must be selfless. But some should be, so that my life isn’t just about me.

Not all my choices must be high-minded. But some should be, so that my life isn’t just about the superficial.

“I don’t miss late-night television. And I’m a little embarrassed that for 33 years it was the laser-focus of my life.” . . . Talking about his own experience, Letterman said, “It took a lot of energy, and it probably would have been better expended elsewhere. Now it just seems like, really, that’s what you did?”
– Interview with David Itzkoff, National Post, 19 Oct 2016

Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, the choices add up.

Be in the moment? Yes.

Choose the moments? Yes, that too.


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4 Responses to The Zen, the Tao of Modish Gowns

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Living for the moment is really tough. It would require NOT thinking down the flow chart of unfolding possibilities. If this moment is all that counts, I might well have another beer with a friend before driving home. But if I then drive while impaired, and hit a girl walking home by the side of the road…. On the other hand, worrying about a possible car accident could rob me of the last time I have a beer with that friend, because he dies of a heart attack next week….
    Damn! You’ve made me think again.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Sorry about that! But I think Sophy was talking about giving each moment its due, not living as if there were nothing beyond this moment. That shouldn’t lead to impaired driving.

  2. Um, I think Isabel means being mindful in the moment. Making the wiser choices but not necessarily conventional choices, not just going with the flow.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Yes. Being mindful of the immediate demands (and not being too stuffy to attend to them), while not getting caught up in them to the exclusion of all else.

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