Luxury, Calm and Voluptuousness II

Lisa and Undine raised the question, what makes you write? My answer was and is Baudelairean: ordre et beauté, luxe, calme, et volupté. A garret by a good bookstore and a job as a barista could constitute luxury, calm, and voluptuousness. Another answer is that writing is like breathing – nothing motivates me, or everything does, I write every day. But Undine’s question was about academic writing. I used to write because things were required or due, or because I had something to say to a particular venue. It did not take motivation – it was a habit. Then for some time I really only had comments. I have never liked writing in the hope that it might get me somewhere – after all, where would that be? But my motivation now is that it is going to get me to a specific place. I am not used to this. It is going to take a new version of me to do that, but I can feel it coming on.


Undine’s question led me to think of another: what forms of luxury do I want to reclaim in my life, now that I am living again in a First World country with all sorts of luxuries at my fingertips – luxuries to which I am so accustomed that I do not take advantage of them, despite the fact that this would require no changes to my finances or my carbon imprint? In other words, what luxuries do I have that I am not using, and could?

The answer, I discovered, was flexible scheduling. I remember how I renounced that, slowly, insidiously, working with people who keep factory or administrators’ schedules, working at all normal business hours but then only. Trying to do this when it is not in fact necessary causes me to waste a significant amount of time by inefficiently forcing my organism to a schedule that only seems practical. Before I renounced flexible scheduling, I did one or more of the following in any given week:

+ take a late afternoon off and work in the evening (this is the Mediterranean way, and I promise it gives you more time every day for both work and play)
+ go out on a weeknight and work Saturday night (this emphasizes your creative life and not drudgery)
+ do errands Friday, work Saturday (what is a flexible schedule for if not to free your weekends of errands, so you can enjoy your life)
+ leave work soon after lunch Friday, go to the pool, clean house that afternoon; go out Friday night; go hiking Saturday, work Saturday night and all Sunday, go out Sunday night (this really makes the weekend long).

One of my great-great uncles is supposed to have “revolutionized” factory work in nineteenth century Russia by providing lunch, so that workers “did not have” to go home at midday and could thus leave work at five. I really wonder about the benevolence of the change. Doesn’t it sound as though it would be so the factory could put on another shift?

I any case, I have been very decadent in my more productive periods, going out every night and then typing in cafés all weekend. Under peer pressure I tried to reform and become proper, but it was impractical. I notice that I like to keep hours, but not standard hours. And when I keep the hours invented by myself, I do not waste time or procrastinate. And doing that was something I did when I still felt what I would call normal levels of power and centredness in life. Reclaiming my hours appears to be part of reclaiming the older and newer version of me.


This weblog is changing, although you may not see it as I do since the posts are not posted in real time, or in the order written. But do you notice how I no longer discuss Reeducation? And how the tortured posts have moved on to the next, more difficult topic, academia? I have almost written everything I have to say about that, too. More will be almost redundant, because I could wonder forever what I might have thought or how I might have felt had things been different, or whether I am secretly a real academic. I can always go into many contortions and discuss the things I might do to adapt. And as I said in my great, unfinished novel MADRID, one can say anything about anything in that kind of terrain, since the world is a fabric of dreams which interpret and reinterpret each other. I do not really know but I have the distinct impression that I am going to write a certain book and it is going to get me a job by the sea.


I started the Professor Zero blog with with the intention of posting a poetic fragment each day to invoke Oxalá and the light. I never expected to become so much less cryptic as I was in those days. That is to say, I never expected that I, the author, would join my voice to that of the narrator, Professor Zero – or that I, the scribe, would join my voice to that of the author, Professor Zero. But I, who aspired to rebuild myself from the ground up by writing as Professor Zero, am increasingly located in the streets, in the academic book, and more yet in my great, unfinished novel MADRID. Both of us will still write here, leveling off perhaps in  intensity.


8 thoughts on “Luxury, Calm and Voluptuousness II

  1. Interesting post, especially about the flexible scheduling and writing. I never thought of flexible scheduling as a luxury, but you’re right.

  2. Right now I am abusing flexible scheduling by staying up too late. If I allow myself the flexible scheduling I actually want, I won’t keep doing this.
    Yes it is a great luxury although one doesn’t discover this until one loses or relinquishes it.

    (Whimper du jour: I keep speaking positively but I am absolutely suffering over one of my courses. The issue is the textbook, but the results make me think I am unsuited.)

  3. Oh, ouch. I will never forget a class I had to teach with an unusable textbook. There is nothing worse. Is there any way out of this?

  4. Thanks for sympathy / moral support! Not that I can see. The people who chose it teach only this class and for some reason feel this book makes their lives easy. The students “do well” and feel they “learned” but then do not appear to actually know a great deal. The way out for me is not to have this course assigned, I really think.

  5. Gracias Geoffrey – I feel them!


    On the post: I realized my question isn’t what motivates me to write, it’s what motivates me to stop or to write for the drawer. And the answer is LOW SELF ESTEEM.

    I had this conversation with a friend tonight who said I had low self esteem and in a flash it made me realize what higher self esteem would even be. I understood the difference between confidence, which I have, and self esteem, which I only have some of (and very little in some areas).

    I have to remember this the next time I get bored at work. I think getting bored is in fact because it is boring and I lack the resources to make it interesting. But I also think I get bored BECAUSE of this lack of self esteem (which is different from “being secure” and from confidence). The next time my eye glaze over I will think of this and try to open my HEART CHAKRA.

    It is Friday so we can talk about these things Friday being Oxala’s day. When this friend explained these things I could feel my heart space expand and my back straighten. Excellent.

  6. Professor Zero, you have that knack of writing words that others read and wish they had written. I don’t come here often enough. I wish you greater success, especially with your book MADRID.

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