the secondhand identity;
the primary reality.
Where a fact finds a being,
Man defines a meaning.
P.S. The tenet of Sarte’s Existentialism is “Existence precedes Essence.” People love to criticize it because it lays bare to the starkest truth of life, even though they are all aware of it. Man defines himself where he stands in his life vis-a-vis his contemporaries, measuring himself against the burgeoning careers and just moderately settled lifestyles of his peers. I find this school of philosophy applicable to Charles Horton Cooley’s sociological theory of “Looking Glassed Self,” stating that you become what others think you are. Although I do not want to wholly subscribe to either of the thoughts, I can see where these thoughts come from: Human sentience, that is. Our faculty is rather instinctive than reasoning, physical than metaphysical because it reacts to an external stimuli much more than to internal principles of judgment. And I guess the age we are living in now is the apotheosis of sentient modus vivendi in many aspects…
“Anything new in today’s newspaper, Seraphina?” asked inquisitive Patricia, who arrived at Cafe Jolie, her and Seraphina’s “third” place after their homes and workplaces. “Yes, there is very shocking news connected to our neighbors in Avonlea!” Seraphina was excited by this one-of-kind news involving her beloved town that was seldom covered by any major newspaper unless big wigs in corporate world or bureaucrats in political arena visited the town with no other reasons than canvassing for “likes” of the good people of Avonlea, all for their dominance of popularity over the populace. So what made her flushed with rare effervesce? Patricia was by all means curious about it and wanted to dig out the whys and wherefores.
“You know the Magoo family who owns the mini mart down on the Merton Bowley Road? While Mr. Priam Magoo and his two other children Tony and Tracy were on their fishing trip to Bella Vista, their bedroom ceiling completely collapsed to the ground all of sudden on Friday morning! And the thing was that Mr. Priam’s wife Helen and their infant son George were in that bedroom! But by the grace of God, she and the baby were unscathed by the falling debris because Helen, with her innate athletic feats accelerated by her maternal instinct, covered George’s tiny body with hers and escaped the scene as swiftly as she could. Both the mother and the baby fled to the Collies, their next door neighbors to calm their nerves. Until Priam and the other children would return home tonight (a drive to Bella Vista takes about two days.), Helen and George would stay at the Collies.”
Patricia’s heart became laden with ebbs and flows of emotions, erratically setting in motion a convolution of sadness, indignation, ebullience, longing, benevolence, and then pathos with a detritus of the news about the unfortunate incident befalling Helen and George she had just heard from Seraphina. So much so that her eating at the cafe with Seraphina made her feel indulged in some sort of sybaritic activities with a phantasmagorical display of the scenes in which both the mother and the baby were frightened, taking a flight to their neighbors until the return of other family members played stereoscopically in her metal theater. While her friend Seraphina just matter-of-factly discoursed the news as if it had been one of those articles in a provincial bill posted on a public board in a park, Patricia took it to heart and decided to visit Helen and George at the Collies after the brunch. Just as the great Roman historian Pliny the Elder aided the refugees of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius with all his might, Patricia was willing to offer consolation however small it might be to the mother and the baby.
If this book had been written in an armchair perspective of a priggish journalist who would only report by hearsay or with cavalier attitude toward working class, then I would not have even bothered to pick it up in the first place. What attracted me to this book was an excerpt bespeaking the author’s telltale recounting of the story as an ambitious, enterprising journalist who dared to work undercover as a domestic maid and a laundry worker in Victorian London during which the social conditions of the working class, not to speak of women’s social positions, plummeted to a dismal low as the rise and the prosperity of the bourgeoisie was skyrocketed especially in London. Although Ms. Bank’s motivation of writing this book arose from her achievement of journalistic ambition, her candor, analytical mind, and diligence should be esteemed highly in the discourse of her artless recounting of working experience. In fact, this book itself is a valuable historical and anthropological record of social conditions and cultural aspects of the 19th century London., guiding readers to her veni, vidi vici adventure thereof.