Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Delight in Disorder

I wish I could. I love the Cavalier poets for their examination of disorder and what it meant in their extremely ordered society. Disorder is often highly gendered in their work. One of my favorite poems is "Delight in Disorder" by Robert Herrick, a poem about the wantonness of clothes. Ironically, the "slightly tousled" look was carefully constructed much the way distressed jeans are today. And there is both a delight in the thought the the wantonness of a woman's clothes might mean a similar wantonness in bed, but also there is a fear of it, of the "wild civility" of it all.

Another favorite is Andrew Marvell's "The Garden." In the poem, the speaker retreats into the beauties of the garden to find solitude from society and all its ills. The garden is figured as female with men trying in vain to tame it. It is too fertile, too beautiful. The following stanza exemplifies the tug between reveling in the beauty of the garden's fruits and the danger of it.
What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head ;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine ;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach ;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
The speaker is literally tripped by the garden. Later, the speaker laments that Eden has to be sullied with the presence of women.

So what's the connection? I've been thinking about my own disorder, which is not constructed the way the object in Herrick's poem is, but runs more to the garden in Marvell's poem. I think in some ways, I am both speaker and garden. I'm tripping myself in my own abundance.

I've also been thinking about disorder more generally and how we (Americans at least) really value order--organization, efficiency, etc. Why? I have never been particularly organized. Oh, sure, I make my to-do lists. I have my schedule in my Palm, but my desk is always in a state of disarray. Though my house is no candidate for one of those "Clean House" or "Organization" shows, it's also no candidate for Martha Stewart's Living or Better Homes and Gardens. Is being organized and neat really better? I realized that this was the root of some of my stress. It's not I have that much to do that I can't handle it, but that I'm not entirely organized in my approach and that stresses me out. I feel like someone's going to say, "Wow, she's really disorganized." But if it gets done, does it matter if had everything in neat folders or in semi-organized piles on my desk? No. Then why, why do I feel bad about it?! And I do think there's a gender issue here. The cost for women who aren't organized is higher than for men. If my house is a mess, does Mr. Geeky get blamed? Not usually. If something falls through the cracks in a project because I missed something, do I get scrutinized more than if it happened on a man's watch? Possibly. And is there an element of fear of the "disordered" woman in the workplace? Quite possibly.

I guess my own philosophy is that yes, you need to have some modicum of order. You can't just let everything go, but you don't have to keep your pencils in a straight line. I certainly admire people who are more organized than me, but I don't begrudge those who are less so. And I wish people would recognize the delight that can be found in disorder.