Monday, March 7, 2011

It would sometimes amaze us, the company we had kept

We, of whom so many wild oats are expected, grow accustomed to a somewhat relaxed restraint from time to time in the company we might keep. Nobody ac-cords any importance to the inevitable blunder or distraction. A latitudin-arian mirth greets our occasional em-barrassments, even a bit of bemused affection is earned for garnering what Benedick called some predestinate scratch, from a harpie of arch haut-eur. Yet there are mornings when we reflect, rinsing those surface anom-alies away, that we are not remorseful to show them the drain. The alter-native, an excessively guarded life, is simply an intolerable endangerment of the mind. The question, then, is what caution is excessive? 

Not long ago, the Blue Remembered Hills blog published an open-ended rumination on snobbery, and I hope it takes up the question again. The other day, the Greek Brazilian Boy blog published pictures illustrating a popular paraphrase of that disorder; and then over the weekend various comment came in, to lay the question aside. But of course it lingers, because of the diversity of experience we all bring to bear on the subjects of our study, even drawn sometimes from our earliest relationships.

Snobbery finds nobody alone in its stain. I cannot be alone in disliking incentives for disgust, its reflex. We dislike the seizure by disgust even more than that of anger. Something about it makes us as sick with shame as with revul-sion. Disgust with snob-bery squares this circle, by dipping us in snobbery to vituperate it.

[It] is a recognition of danger to our purity. But it is more. The mere sensation of it also involves an admission that we did not escape contamination.. Disgust admits our own vulnerability and compromise even as it constitutes an assertion of superiority; .. it does not move us to condemn for pure pleasure because it always makes us bear some of the costs of condemnation.

I wish something better for this place. The moist sand of morning, the awakening sun may cultiv-ate us. The "wild oats defense" belongs to the oats, not to us, and to everything new which lacks suspicion and takes risk. And caution? Let it not be our excuse.

William Ian Miller
The Anatomy of Disgust
Harvard University Press, 1997©


  1. I love your blog, i've read so much so far... and sometimes i am struggling trying to understand some lines. It gives me a little learning, french guy that I am. thanks for the "clin d'oeil" i read here and there. are u part french? ur name sounds so.

    good luck!

  2. Please accept thanks for the "good luck" wishes, but do stay with us, and share in it!

    I am not hereditarily French, I was acquainted with the language and some of the culture from a very young age, and stayed in touch. It's the only recourse we have, who are not French :)

    Thank you for redirecting me to this particular blog entry. And for meeting me here. Do stay. L