Gratuitous

There are a lot of people seeing red these days. Apart from the ugliness in the news, I seem to be allergic to my house—either that, or my frustration with politics is literally beginning to change my eye color. It’s not a fun situation, and it may require me to move yet again if it doesn’t improve.

And yet, this week I scrubbed mold off the back deck.

I raked leaves off the driveway.

I bought a mum for the front porch.

I finally invested in a fine art print for the living room wall.

A few weeks ago, I planted bulbs in the back yard.

Why? If I might not get to stay, aren’t these expenses silly, if not downright wasteful? Moving is expensive, and this summer’s resentfully tall tomatoes were the last plants I intend to stuff in the backseat of my car.

I took that spartan approach for several weeks, but I was pretty miserable, and not just because of my inability to breathe normally.

My breakthrough moment came from a book called Culture Care, by an artist named Makoto Fujimura. He writes that a healthy culture needs things that are inherently gratuitous. I typically use that word only in reference to my own futile (and, let’s be honest, often accidental) layouts on the Ultimate field. Fujimura uses the word gratuity “to speak of intentionality, and even forcefulness” (28) —OK, that part sorta fits— “not necessary to our daily survival” (51)—yup, counter to it, in fact— that “points beyond itself, beyond survival to satisfaction” (52). Hmm.

Beauty, he says, “is expansive, generous, abundant, connected, and expressive.”

(Fine. My layouts are not.)

The point is, I’ve realized that I need the gratuitousness of small, beautiful, impractical things in my life. They may not stop my eyes from itching, keep me from laying out for a disc I have no chance of catching, or prevent me from seeing red when I turn on the news, but they certainly alleviate the blues.

Published by Jen

The author of Snark on the Side is not your average run-of-the-millennial generation. Jen is a contradiction in terms: a graceful klutz, a smart blond, a math-savvy English degree-holder, a southern liberal, and an adult amateur equestrian who doesn’t match her saddle pads. Snark on the Side is a work in progress, born out of years of rambling email newsletters and anthropomorphized Christmas letters, small town observations, and the ever-present irony of pursuing a career with a degree in English literature. Thanks for visiting!

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