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The Decadence Manifesto
2008-04-29 14:34
by Will Carroll

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." - Oscar Wilde.

Wikipedia defines decadence with ... well, you read it. To me, decadence is a nice description of the finer things in life, the ones that you can't or shouldn't do every day, but the experience of which adds a richness. We don't eat nightly at the finest restaurants, but there's some organic avocados and a recipe for guacamole. We don't have a case of Bordeaux in the cellar, but there's a nice Spanish Grenacha that will go well with the guac. There's a VW, not a Bugatti in the driveway and one turbo is enough. I am not, nor do I aspire to be, Paris Hilton or one of her friends.

Life is to be lived, to be experienced and savored. Over the last six months, I've spent far too much time wondering why my mother's death seemed so meaningless. I have visions of the end, but few from the good times. I do, however, remember taking her on the last Mother's day she had to Sullivan's, a steakhouse. She didn't really care for steakhouses and would never have gone had I not virtually required it. She dressed up a bit and if you didn't know the cancer was eating her away, you wouldn't have known it. She smiled. She ate the prime rib, rare, and never gave any indication that she was ill. Today nearly a year later, I know that it's that memory that will hold while the sight of her sliding away in her hospital bed will fade.

One special occasion is simply not enough. Birthdays and anniversaries don't happen often enough and every day is special. Is it decadent to have fresh avocados delivered to my home in the hopes that I can fashion some guacamole? Yes, yes it is. I'm still looking forward to trying that out. Decadent to spend a couple dollars extra to have the grass-fed, dry-aged steak or to drink the microbrew from my local tavern rather than the swill normally called beer? Yes, yes it is. Johnny Walker is good enough to drink and to enjoy, but a Macallan 18 is decadent enough to be needful. My MacBook Air is two pounds lighter than my old MacBook. Worth it? To me, yes.

It's not about being the smartest or the richest, about the latest gadget or the newest trend. Decadence is about the experience. Crash Davis reminded Nook LaLoosh that he didn't need a quadraphone Blaupunkt, but there's nothing wrong with having it once you have the curveball. Your decadence might be leaping out of a plane, surfing in Hawaii, or finding out how a $4,000 hooker earns her pay. Mine isn't, but there's nothing inherently wrong with yours, aside from the questionable legality and moral issues of the last one. You might disagree on the feeling I get dropping the top and driving, of sliding the virtual switch on the iPhone, or of anything I find decadent, but it's the personal experience.

You might not like my cigar. You might see me sitting in the corner with a beer, watching the game and talking too loudly and rightly think me obnoxious, but just politely tell me to dial it back a bit; you deserve your own enjoyment too. Just don't tell me I'm wrong just because we have different ways of experiencing things. Simple decadence is not something to be looked down on. You can use whatever terms you want, have whatever experience you want, and find your own path to fulfillment. I'm not an ascetic and my inner Buddha hasn't expressed itself yet. I can't stand silence or even quiet. I will look on things with lust and admiration. I will smile at the pretty girl. I will have a cool bluesman nickname. I'll help the old lady across the street. I'll scalp tickets to get the good seats. I will tip well for good service and very well for great service. I will pay extra to taste the ham that only ate acorns. I will wear a Sea Island cotton shirt for no other reason than James Bond did. I can pronounce Balenciaga. I'll always ask for the free upgrade.

Napoleon Solo once said he had an "elegant air of decadence." I want people to say that about me, admiringly, not grudgingly. I will live the life my parents dreamed I would.

2008-04-29 16:02:28
1.   Andrew Shimmin
Wilde's only problem with what you call decadence would have been your relative under-indulgence of it.
2008-04-29 19:06:54
2.   TFD



What up?

Good to see your tracks.

2008-04-29 20:16:29
3.   jgpyke
Moth and rust.
2008-04-29 20:40:09
4.   Greg Brock
"The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom...William Blake."

"What do you mean, 'William Blake?'"


2008-04-29 22:14:28
5.   Hugh Jorgan
I think all of us in the western world experience some level of decadence. For instance I could ride any old Honda or Suzuki motorcycle but I choose to ride a Ducati sportclassic 1000s. Its not faster or handles better, its just because its a Ducati and it sounds and looks like what I think a bike should.
Oscar was good with a quote though, I believe he once declared whilst coming through customs in London,
"the only thing I have to declare is my genius"
Now that is one cool cat.
2008-04-30 16:56:30
6.   joejoejoe
Here's a poem for you.

Be drunken
Always. That's the point.
Nothing else matters; If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weigh you down and crush you to the Earth,
Be drunken, continually.
Drunken with what?
With wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you please.
but Be drunken.
And if sometimes on the steps of a palace or on the green grass in a ditch or in the dreary solitude of your own room
You should awaken and find the drunkenness half or entirely gone
Ask of the wind ,of the wave, of the star of the bird, of the clock of all that flies, of all that sighs, of all that moves, of all that sings, of all that speaks, Ask what hour it is, and wind, wave, star, bird or clock will answer you,

"It is the hour to be drunken
Be drunken if you would not be the martyred slaves of Time.
Be drunken Continually, with wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please."

- Charles Baudelaire, 1857

1 The Decadent movement is making a comeback!

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