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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gnostic Slumming on Fifth Avenue

From the New York Times (3/22/07):

"Dinner was the usual affair on Thursday night in Apartment 9F in an elegant prewar on Lower Fifth Avenue. There was shredded cabbage with fruit-scrap vinegar; mashed parsnips and yellow carrots with local butter and fresh thyme; a terrific frittata; then homemade yogurt with honey and thyme tea, eaten under the greenish flickering light cast by two beeswax candles and a fluorescent bulb.

"A sour odor hovered oh-so-slightly in the air, the faint tang, not wholly unpleasant, that is the mark of the home composter. Isabella Beavan, age 2, staggered around the neo-Modern furniture — the Eames chairs, the brown velvet couch, the Lucite lamps and the steel cafe table upon which dinner was set — her silhouette greatly amplified by her organic cotton diapers in their enormous boiled-wool, snap-front cover.

"A visitor avoided the bathroom because she knew she would find no toilet paper there."


Meet the Conlin-Beavans, modern Manhattanites, who like so many of their peers on this progressive sceptered isle, are deeply concerned about the environment (and in the case of Mr. Conlin-Beavans, nursing along a nifty book deal). Doing their part to save the planet, and at considerable personal sacrifice, they have taken it upon themselves to live a whole year in their full-service Manhattan co-op conducting a "lifestyle experiment they call No Impact." For these "shopping-averse, carbon-footprint-reducing, city-dwellers" that means

"[E]ating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation."

Mr. Conlin-Beavans hoofs it to work; for her two-mile trek Ms. Conlin-Beavans enjoys the comparative luxury of a scooter, of the type once considered a toy (for non-adult children anyway), the kind you have to push all by yourself.

You must read the whole article to fully appreciate this magnificently self-absorbed couple. You will, however, find no explanation how the Beavans-Conlins would be able to pull off this noble experiment playing domestic dirt farmers were it not for the already extant infrastructure of New York City and its Brobdingnagian "carbon-footprint." It brings to mind Marie Antoinette's Petit Hameau at her Petit Trianon where she would, when escaping the crushing duties of court, play farmer-peasant until she got bored with it, just like the Conlin-Beavans.

From C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters:

"One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on [the] subject [of gluttony], so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it in the whole length and breadth of Europe. This has largely been effected by concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of excess."

And there you have it.

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