Nice Christmas office dinners are all alike. Any not-so-nice Christmas office dinner is boring in its own fashion. It all depends on a venue and invitees, and a host of the occasion that create an ambiance and conjure up a spirit of the minor revelry. That said, this Christmas office dinner Seraphina attended last night was a nice and delicious revelation of characters, personalities, and tastes served with a fashionably delicious Haute cuisine at a fashionably cultural restaurant in downtown nearby the office. It was an unusual raillery of lawyers – the lords of the firm as Seraphina would like to think – whose stiffness seemed to be temporally suppressed by the intoxication of prime red wine. All of this became a valuable empirical addition to Seraphina’s quest for a meaning of her life, a voyage into the heart of the world, the terra incognita, charting her emotional course according to the winds of her unknown destiny.
The dinner began at La Boum, a new European fusion restaurant in town, at 6:30 PM. As Seraphina wended her direction toward the restaurant, she bethought herself of Somerset Maugham’s adage: “At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.” It was one of the best sagacious and elliptical advice on how to conduct oneself at such occasion, thought she. Or was it just a universal principle to be a civilized guest at a social event? It’s just that when such common sensible etiquette is uttered by a notable person like Maugham, it carries a tone of authority, power of significance. Come to think of it, the Little Prince in the eponymous novel by French aristocrat, writer, poet, and aviator Antone de Saint-Exupery thought the same when a Turkish astronomer dressed in the traditional costume presented himself at an academic convention, no one paid attention to him but belittled his outstanding scientific achievements. It was not until he changed his costume to a well-tailored suit that his fellow astronomers took him seriously and attended to his remarkable scientific contributions. Well, that’s one of the human foibles and follies that we all stumble upon no matter how educated and good-hearted we are, contemplated Seraphina, Lady Philosopher, as she was approaching near La Boum.
All the partners of the firm had already been expecting Seraphina’s elegant entrance into the restaurant. Always a principled, reliable, and capable assistant, Seraphina was their sine qua non, and they all could not exert their years of expertise on their areas of law, ranging from corporate to litigation, without her existence at the office. So they could not help but beam with smile at her beautiful presence into the dinner table that would have been rather drab and dreary without her graceful presence like Beatrice serving as Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory in Virgil’s Divine Comedy. So the course of dinner commenced with a glass of red wine made in 1986. It was amazing to see how just one sip of wine making a person agreeable and sociable quite contrary to his usual stiff and standoffish self. That might be the reason why Dionysus, the god of wine and anything relating to intoxicating spirits, was indiscriminately revered by all regardless of status, sex, and age in the antiquity. And the cult is still going strong all over the world.
Amid the intoxicated euphoria under a glowing chandelier, Seraphina was observing the faces of the partners, the purveyors of her sustenance, her daily victuals, her existential livelihood. In the dusky glow, her minor and major bosses seemed full of amiable qualities. Seraphina liked their polished frankness, their intelligence, their sense of humor, their lack of snobbishness. Even the occasional moroseness and astuteness which sometimes were so like abrasiveness now seemed the natural sign of social ascendancy belonging to the station. They were lords of the world she now decided to care for, and they were ready to accept her only if she was willing to make it her primary world, not the secondhand, which had been that world she was now beginning to turn herself in. Or so it seemed at the moment. But one thing was certain that she felt within her a secret allegiance to their standards, an acceptance of the demands imposed upon her unavoidable obligations, a scornful pity for the people who would put their ideal ideas before existential needs and adhere to abstract abracadabra of metaphysical philosophy of life. Now she began to despise all such feckless rabbles, the starving intellectuals without the gumption, the proud egoists who put forward their own doctrines of life in which Seraphina would not want to find herself. Already she was beginning to feel like a new person at the denouement of the dinner. And her qualms about leaving for her imago bespoke a vestige of her abstract self that only lived in a textual world.