Happy Mundane

Monday, April 6, 2009

It’s popular today to quote William Morris (“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”), especially on design blogs, especially on somewhat crafty design blogs. I like to think I have a somewhat more *legitimate* claim to yet another William Morris related post. I was an art history major, damn it. I went to LA just to go to the Huntington Library, damn it.

Not good enough?

I grew up going to church here, St. Paul’s with in the Walls. It is an pre-Raphaelite Church, to the best of my knowledge the only one outside of England. And to the best of my knowledge, one of the most beautiful churches in the world. It was designed by George Edmund Street with an assist by Morris; the inside decorated by Edward Burne-Jones, the pre-eminent pre-Raphaelite painter. The outside is a cunning camouflage for a controversial church; the inside an illustration of Keats, scenes from Narnia, wisps of memories of a dream about Arthurian myths.

As a child I took it for granted.

It was church, with all the burdensome obligations and mysterious, occasional, surprise uplifting that implies. And I took it for granted.

I’m happy I did. I think it’s wonderful I had the opportunity to think of this place as mundane.

Burne-Jones described his work as illustrations of beautiful, romantic dreams of something that never was.
The first time I read that I thought, If only all our dreams could be so beautiful. Well, why not? Why not make my own bread, paint my own pictures, make my pate with exactly the number of pistachios (a lot) I want? Why not make myself a tie-print silk drawstring shirt, just because? Flowers just because it is Monday. Money wrapped to look like a shoe.

Beauty in the ordinary, and in the ordinary, beauty. Pleasure in all things, and in all things, pleasure. My type of pleasure, at least: beauty, spirit, sense and sensitivity.

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