Friday, March 23, 2012

You Might As Well Live on the (Yuck) Whites of Eggs

I used to limp into Dr. Mars’ office, collapse like an abandoned accordion onto his couch, and beg him to try just a little bit harder (and 50 times faster) to make me even slightly less mentally ill.  Now that he’s somewhat accomplished this feat, I march right in, perch on his couch as The Raven might have once perched on Poe, and announce what will be our theme for the day.

What I actually announce is the quote that inspired the theme for the day--usually a philosophical point made by some deceased writer or other. E.M. Cioran’s He who has never envied the vegetable has missed the human drama used to sum things up for me perfectly. But recently I came across a quote that sums things up even more perfectly:

Without an ever present sense of death, life is insipid. You might as well live on the whites of eggs.

This (as I patiently informed Dr. Mars) comes from the late Muriel Spark, the woman who secured her financial future, (i.e., her future) by writing The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  This particular pearl comes, however, from another Spark novel called, much more fittingly, Memento Mori. Which, as I also patiently told Dr. Mars, translates to English as: Yer gonna dah ‘n’ dontchew fergit it.

Dr. Mars, who almost always pretends to warm to my themes, dutifully asked if I was finding my own life insipid, to which I replied:

“Au contraire, Dr. Mars. I’m completely awash in Hollandaise sauce.”

“Hollandaise?” he asked in that handy shrink dialect known as The Echo.

“Bernaise,“ I said. “Pot de crème. Custard.” Then I gave up and said: “Rich golden yolks.”

I realize everybody my age (sixty-doyoumind-two on the dreaded June 4th) feels compelled to observe this, and now I will too:

Getting closer to death (or absolute penury which is the same thing) really does enhance life the way falling in love (or sexual swoon) used to do, only it does it without the romantic delusion. In fact, that’s the whole point, the lack of delusion.

We really are going to die (which, as my previous and late shrink used to say, is the fact that keeps life from getting too ghastly), and finally believing this makes everything--except maybe hospitals, funerals, acute pain and grief—both brighter (like yolks) and (like the yolks in Zabaglione) much sweeter.
For me anyway.  But maybe that’s because, despite Dr. Mars’ valiant efforts, I’m still, you know, sorta mentally ill.


  1. Again, our mutual admiration is explained: I have kept my tattered, yellowed, and much read copies of both of those books since college. And I now need to trot off and read them again.

    Also: how much do I love the Cioran quote??? I'd tattoo that on something if I weren't afraid of needles...

  2. From writing group yesterday, a James Michener quote: "She impressed me powerfully. Like a chunk of earth in the middle of a cheese souffle."