Monday, October 17, 2016

17th October: Of Manuscripts and Mysteries

Dear Reader,

I'm not sure what sort of indignities your workday includes. Mine, as of late, consist in large part of a soggy trod across a campus so lousy with trees as to be nauseating in its pastoral beauty, sheltering an armload of archaeological journals beneath a broken umbrella at ten in the evening, all to pick up a few more that have been delivered from neighboring libraries and quickly trundle them back to the car, never without stopping for coffee midway.

Among his commentaries in the Hagakure Kikigaki, Tsunetomo Yamamoto wrote:

"There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”

A sampling of my most recent library haul
 It's the same with books and broken umbrellas, worse if you're trying to balance a cup of coffee. It does, however, have a certain attractive charm. If nothing else, the odds of burning myself are dramatically lower than in my years of cooking, which brings me to my point, if I really have one.

Having grown well beyond tired of constant burns for embarrassing wages, I have finally extricated myself from the world of food, and set myself properly on the straight path of Medievalism. The idea being that papercuts are a worthy job hazard, I might spend the rest of my life being paid to allow centuries-dead Christians to posthumously lecture a 21st-century atheist through their written works. First on the list, Dante Alighieri, has been kind enough to oblige for ten weeks of close reading, and I begin to wonder if a non-committal manuscripts scholar would even make it past ante-Hell, or if the trees on campus are somehow a living metaphor for his Pilgrim's dark wood.

Me, fighting the thesis beasts on my way to Dante, or something
(Quercia c. 1444-1452, Yates Thompson Ms 36 1.97 3)
Whatever the case, it seems doubtful now that I'll make it as far as limbo. My first self-elected step in that direction has been to undertake an undergraduate thesis in the hopes of departmental honors. The topic: Medieval sugar production.

There's a factoid bordering on urban legend that seems to pass a cursory fact check about Airheads candy. Allegedly, their White Mystery flavor is the result of mixed leftovers between batches without any coloring added. True or not, I like to imagine that I --like some cheap, spongy mockery of taffy-- am passing from one flavor to the next. Currently in the transition between food and Medieval history, I've elected to cling to my comfort zone and write about Medieval food.

Soon, perhaps after the burn scars have faded a little more, I'll escape the topic of food altogether. For now, I'm in my White Mystery phase.


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