Remarkable though it may seem – considering we’re in the middle of winter in Canada – I went for a bicycle ride this morning as did I yesterday morning as well. I didn’t go far either day, about 4.7Km today and only 2.83Km yesterday. The temperature both mornings was about -14°C and today the air was filled with tiny crystals though the wind was less sharply driven than yesterday. More importantly the subdivision roads were predominantly clear; and significantly, little traffic. There was frequently a welcome layer of sand and undissolved salt. The curiosity of bicycling in these conditions is strange because those who are walking (often with their dogs) express alarm that one should bicycle when it is so cold – though they themselves are walking in identical conditions! I confess that the opportunity is diminished by the implacable fear of slipping on an ice patch; but with caution I was able to capture invigorating fresh air and sufficient exercise to enhance an appetite for my subsequent breakfast (an equally cherished undertaking).
In spite of the frozen environment and the cloister of the pandemic, there have been for me some dramatic events in the past few days. Dramatic is likely an inapt description; perhaps uplifting or gladdening is more appropriate. I have always been propelled by small advances. I excuse the trifling nature by the immodesty of detail. I say immodesty because so often people minimize the importance of detail. We’ve all heard the quip, “There once was a man named Rex, Who was endowed with small organ of sex; When tried for exposure, He replied with composure, De minimis non curat lex!”
De minimis is a Latin expression meaning “about minimal things”, normally in the terms de minimis non curat praetor (“The praetor does not concern himself with trifles”) or de minimis non curat lex (“The law does not concern itself with trifles”), a legal doctrine by which a court refuses to consider trifling matters. Queen Christina of Sweden (r. 1633–1654) favoured the similar Latin adage, aquila non capit muscās (the eagle does not catch flies).
The legal history of de minimis dates back to the 15th century.
Yet I find the detail of my daily ventures to be both accommodating and demonstrable of palpable recovery. Maintaining a balance in these turbulent times is an effort; and even the most footling matter can be soothing. The latest striking event was for example no more provocative than the arrival by Fedex of a small parcel containing an item I had whimsically ordered on-line several weeks ago. The day before the arrival of the package I had received a telephone call from the Fedex office enquiring whether there was a call button for the apartment and if so under what number or name. This communication naturally inflated the gusto already surrounding the arrival of the item. To be perfectly frank I had harboured some measure of concern regarding the legitimacy of the on-line order, questioning whether the commercial arrangement were with some nefarious scoundrel in a remote country and whether all the previous email were mere manufactures of cock and bull. But yesterday to my entire delight the product arrived; and, more to the point, it was exactly as advertised and responded well to my original ambition. I have yet to complete that particular theatre and its emotional histrionics with the addition of another personalized part, but that too was subsequently arranged by telephone to be addressed on Monday next.
Somewhere within this recent history several other matters transpired. The most enthralling of them was a discussion with an artist with whom I have dealt more than once in the past. I have commissioned him to complete another project for me. This represents an indisputable indulgence on my part but one which has shadowed me for years. As I said to the craftsman, “I’m not saving it for the funeral!” I originally dealt with the father of the gentleman almost forty years ago. It was an unanticipated encounter with the father since he was simply a “middleman” to a transaction begun with a much larger and well-known firm. When I discovered that he was the magic behind the scheme I skilfully managed to extract from the principle his source. Yet one more example of the reduction of obfuscation to its underlying detail! Unlike my recent on-line transaction I have no doubt about the authenticity of this deal. There is no urgency to the conclusion of the contract since the product is entirely custom-made; and I have the benefit of two prior associations with which I am completely satisfied. Meanwhile the prospect of its completion is as assuaging as a Frédéric Chopin piano concert.
Speaking of concerts, in association with that last mentioned deal I had to communicate with our financial advisor whom we normally leave to his own devices other than the annual reviews of the portfolio. He is ordinarally extremely attentive to our requests; but when his prediction of expected arrival of funds was delayed, I became concerned. As there is no urgency surrounding the matter I was initially reluctant to betray my native impatience. However the perturbation mounted when I recalled from my days of practicing law that more often than not a delay was caused not by misunderstanding but rather by a slip in performance. Accordingly I made a firm but polite follow-up call; and – guess what – there had indeed been a clerical blunder. That too is to be perfected on Monday next.
Apart from two intervening episodes, 1) with an acquaintance regarding a soft-covered book which I returned because I found it impossible to read – and I therefore switched to a downloaded version I could enlarge and employ the devices of on-line dictionary and other related checks; and 2) an attempt at a Zoom lecture which I ended abandoning mid-stream because I could not get my headphones to connect and I hadn’t sufficient knowledge of the other particulars of the application, the more notable occurrence was swapping two or three emails with a firm through which I have ordered yet another commodity. The latter affair goes back several months and begins the conclusion of what has been an annual project between us. What especially encouraged me in this transaction was the settlement of the anticipated cost which is regularly subject to changing mercantile offers and promotions and, in my case, a substantial credit from a previous transaction.
It is naturally shameful to me that each of the three principle themes involves worldly pursuits; while the subordinate matters relate to cognitive exploits – and that the latter two ended less desirably than other three. Nonetheless I have long ago succumbed to this and many other failings in my life, preferring as I do to recognize the immutability of my being whatever it is. I soften the insinuation of outright hedonism and opportunistic pragmatism by attaching an artistic expression to the visceral relief. There is also the very real and welcome diversion aligned with removal from the current political evolutions in the United States of America wherein the so-called “leftist” cable news channels would have us believe Americans are descending to the likes of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or revolutionaries in South America.
Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following the Cyrenaic philosopher Aristippus, Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of bodily pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world and limiting desires. Correspondingly, Epicurus and his followers shunned politics because it could lead to frustrations and ambitions which can directly conflict with the Epicurean pursuit for peace of mind and virtues.
Traveling down the river of life is always associated with twists and turns, shallows and falls, straightaways and rotations. Capitalizing upon these alternate states is at times exhausting, at times refreshing. A level of perfection is seldom if ever achieved. For the moment at least I have quelled whatever are the trite anxieties of my meritless performance on the stage of humanity. I revel unabashedly in the success of what has transpired. I have always considered it the most incalculable loss to diminish the value of what is at hand. The disparity not only smacks of indignity and inconsequence but illustrates a total misunderstanding of personality and moment.