Monday, September 04, 2006

Small Pleasures, pt 1

I used to read Mark Steyn regularly. Somewhere along the line he fell out of my regular rotation. I was recently pointed by Daifallah to some interviews of him, and was reminded again of his wit and broadsides. And I came across this, which has stuck with me for the last week. Asked about why one would engage in battle against the illiberal elements in our world, Steyn responds:

"You want to do it because you want to enjoy all those small personal pleasures like being able to walk into a piano bar in London and hear a fantastic new singer singing The Way You Look Tonight. That is one of the small pleasures of life, and it's those accumulated pleasures that are something very important and something valuable.”

There’s much to be said in this, I should think. From freedom comes choice, from choice our ability to engage in the things we desire, and from these things the steady stream of pleasure which makes going forward worth the work.

I returned yesterday from three days in Philadelphia at the APSA ( I participated on this panel, and it captured so much of what I like about political science: questions about institutions and democratic performance, about information and participation, and about how these things don’t work together in the simple ways we often expect. And this, of course, was just one of many great undertakings, like this one on survey response, this one on the neuroscience of politics, and this one on causation and measurement. All in all, three days well spent, small pleasures all.

Today was equally well-appointed. I saw the Brian Jungen exhibit at the Musée d’Art Contemporain with Maskull and Holly, two fine fine artists. Jungen fashions incredible art from the most ordinary objects; Haida masks from Air Jordans, whale skeletons from lawn furniture. These works, I am informed, speak to modern consumerism, to the commercialization of the sacred, the changing relationship between labour and economic relations, etc. Most of this seems good and reasonable. Stumbling around art as I do, I cannot really say. But the sheer beauty of his work makes it worth your patronage. It is a small pleasure not soon to be forgotten.

No comments: