Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.
I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
The Epic Bookshelf: Lessons From Madame Chic
What are you reading THAT for?
It is a great book. A classic.
It is JANE AUSTEN. It is a GIRL'S book.
Such was a discussion from years ago. I still love Pride and Prejudice. Because it teaches the reader valuable lessons for a happy life. Lessons of the value of humility and the danger of blind assumption to name a few. In other words, it teaches principles that everyone should learn and practice every day. That is one reason why Pride and Prejudice has endured.
There are no such things as "girl books". Well. Perhaps there are. The ones with Fabio on the covers. But some books that seem to be written for the lady audience have a lot of wisdom for gentlemen as well. Such a book is Jennifer Scott's lovely and hugely necessary book, Lessons From Madame Chic, The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris (Simon & Shuster, 2012).
Writing in an easy, conversational style, Ms. Scott relates vignettes of her student days in Paris and her piquant observations of the way one Parisian lady made a point of taking joy from the moments of every day. From breakfast. Décor. Dress. Small rituals. Manners. Things that go largely ignored in our culture. Or, worse, which are often disdained as "counterproductive" or "elitist".
The Epic view is that there is absolutely nothing "counterproductive" or "elitist" in making the most you possibly can from every moment of the life you are given. In fact, embracing a life of vibrant simplicity is a most Epic notion and the essence of what Ms. Scott teaches in Lessons From Madame Chic. The Epicurean would submit that paying no attention to your attire or to how you look, not taking care of your body or living space, considering food as only "body fuel", slouching through the days of your life without paying attention that they are running through your fingers, or giving in to the culture of rampant consumerism are the most "counterproductive" and "elitist" ways to live. Because they detract from the nobility and fun of your limited time on the globe no matter what your economic circumstances may be and they elevate yourself in a selfish manner.
Consider the practice of good manners. A proper use of manners is not the affectation of airs in order to elevate oneself but rather the appreciation of the gentility and worth of the other person and a recognition of those things. The appreciation of all of life and of life's short and uncertain span are the core of the Epicurean life. As for the charge of elitism, the Epic would contend that the essence of elitism is selfishness. In this light, what can be more personally "elitist" than wasting what economic resources you do have gobbling up random items at the mall, or gobbling up snacks when you aren't hungry, just because they appear before you like video game targets? These are all notions that Ms. Scott provides simple and clear techniques to avoid, or to defeat in our daily lives. A richer life is better than a less rich life. A richer life has nothing to do with mere riches. It has to do with one's dedication to mining the limited moments of life for the non-monetary riches they contain. Lessons From Madam Chic is a road map to accomplishing this very thing.
The book is divided into three Parts, Diet and Exercise, Style and Beauty, and How to Live Well. Each chapter in a Part concludes with "Le Recap", a useful summary that the reader would do well to photocopy and carry about in the purse or briefcase. I admit that starting "Diet and Exercise" made me quail since I do not like to do either thing. But the focus of this section of the book is on things even I can eagerly embrace. For example, eating thoughtfully, appreciatively and well. Developing a personal style. Taking care of yourself. Having a chic and useful but limited wardrobe. The idea of including some sort of exercise in every day will admittedly be a challenge for me as will seriously looking at and pruning my wardrobe. Developing the "no makeup look", won't be as much of a challenge. The tips on how to dine have significantly increased my enjoyment at table. And I significantly enjoyed my time at table before reading this book.
Part Two of Lessons From Madame Chic is "Style and Beauty". Fellows, take heed. Skin care is important. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, no matter what you say about the majesty of other organs. You must protect your skin from the sun and from undue deterioration. Especially if you like late nights at smoky jazz clubs and other boites as I do. "Look Presentable Always" is a lesson that has absolutely nothing to do with gender or with spending a lot on clothes but rather on taking time to show your self-value by making the most of yourself in any circumstance. "The Art of Femininity" is more accurately seen as "The Art of Sexiness" and teaches the reader to adopt a simple, clean-cut approach to grooming and posture that rejects any attempt to recreate yourself as someone in a magazine ad. Rather, the chapter inspires the reader to project himself in the most unaffected, positive and straightforward manner.
Part Three is titled "How To Live Well" and it is the culmination of the preceding Parts. Chapters showing how and why to "Use The Best Things You Have", (inside you or inside your kitchen cabinet), have "The Best You Can Afford", "Cultivate Your Mind", "Reject The New Materialism", "Life As A Formal Affair" and "Cultivate An Air of Mystery" all build to one final chapter. Titled "Live A Passionate Life". And this, dear readers, is what Epic life comes down to. I hope that parents read this book with their children. That friends and lovers read it to each other. And that Ms. Scott receives all the accolades she so well deserves for writing it.
Anyone will benefit from reading this book. That said, I send a Clarion Call to the male Epic. Set aside your Pride. Ignore your Prejudice. Especially against books with beautiful but feminine cover art. Obtain a copy of Lessons From Madame Chic and study it. Jennifer Scott has provided a unique map along a path through the jungle of crassness and low esteem which closes in on us daily. Follow the map. At the end of these Lessons lies a satisfying and vastly Epic life.
In my mid 50s, husband, father and itinerant storyteller. I am a putative jazz singer, poet and novelist, dedicated to mining every minute of life for the veins of pleasure they contain. My motto is "Dum Vivimus, Vivamus"..."While we Live--LET US LIVE".