Ethics and aesthetics are one (House sitting in Brooklyn)

The curtains are pulled back, and the magnolia stands in full bloom, its petals like painted seashells collecting below. It takes up the bedroom window, only softly. In the yard off to the right, bikes, baskets, handle bars lean against a chainlink-wooden fence. A pumpkin, small and orange, sits half-submerged in the spring marsh. Through the magnolia, part of a brown back bobs up and down: now shoulders, now spine. I just make out that it belongs to a man. He is jumping rope. Ah!

Beyond the courtyard, a street unseen and beyond that a city before brunch.

It is Easter Sunday, and I awoke to bird trills and fucking upstairs, and I am house sitting in a house I’ve never been before.

What would it mean to see things anew, to perceive each object lyrically, each book once opened and regarded, this row of flats and heels, this camera hanging, these crayon pictures by children, and these sleeping pictures of children? To take in and stay with this-here-now?

Follow me: I am walking about with my laptop and sitting down in odd corners. My first vantage point: the side of the bed. Then the living room table. Standing and typing in the kitchen, already in violation of my sitting principle. Now choosing to sit down in a children’s chair that slightly resembles one from Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey. But too cavalierly, too fatly, and it moves. The strangeness of firmness giving way to rocking. A rocking chair… A rocking chair!

What is it like to be a guest in another’s dwelling? And what did it mean for her to invite me in and then leave me here and then have her leave? (One comes, one goes, one returns, one goes.) How can one, so fragile yet so resilient, trust another this much and also this unconsciously? (“Here are the keys.”) And how can I touch things with the delicacy that is due each thing as if each, if held too firmly or just incorrectly, could break or collapse or fall or who knows?

Can we re-enchant the world, Adorno wondered aloud. My friend Richard wrote, “Aesthetics and ethics are one.” To live that way, if only we knew.

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