As the world turns

Stat crux dum volvitur orbis, as the Carthusians say.

A weaver woman will require five daughters; six if she is quick. This is the number of spinning wheels, to keep a loom busy. The information comes from my special correspondent, who qualifies it in an important way. Cloth-weaving methods have changed over the last two or three centuries, she tells me. (So the daughters can all be aborted now.) Truth to tell, the methods had “evolved” before that, and the spinning wheel itself was breaking news, to the hand-spinners of the thirteenth century. Too, it should be mentioned, there are different kinds, such as the charkas that enchanted me in my (Pakistani) childhood.

Well, that’s enough education for this morning, I can hardly keep up. The world of textile production is mostly closed to me, though my curiosity strays into unfamiliar places. Skills, I have none, as I was recently reminded, while trying to sew a button on a cardigan; a button that had only come off because I had put it on, the last time. Knitting — an admirable trait in a girl, if you ask me, and a fascinating thing to watch — remains beyond my comprehension. The darning of a sock, which my mama once explained, now seems a matter of metaphysical complexity. By embroidery, I am utterly astounded.

Hence, perhaps, my views will be received with a grain of salt. I am of the opinion that the hand-crafts of home and “cottage industry” were a terrible loss.

They are certainly “inefficient” by the modern definition, which assumes a pure cash economy, and infinitesimal divisions of labour, the way they have in Hell.

Quite apart from the heartache of which she sings, to the mesmeric rhythm of wheel and treadle, Gretchen am Spinnrade is wasting her time. Her Faust is lost, and she with him, but really it doesn’t matter any more. Everything today is replaceable — partly because the easiest way to increase production is to sacrifice quality. Why should pleasure be found, in any of the works of human hands? It can’t be quantified.

We have today those who still knit, as a tension-reducing hobby. There are even those who still weave, or I met one from an art school, thirty years ago. None would claim to be cutting corners on a household budget; which, when one thinks about it, adds a dimension of meaning that is also lost. Anything you want can now be had for cheap from Walmart, and the tee-shirts can be “personalized” with a funny message.

I’m sure that the inventors and investors of what we call for short the Industrial Revolution were not, or not always, bad men. I read, for instance, A Memoir of Edmund Cartwright (1843), in which I found myself almost cheering for the fellow. The power machinery he designed for weaving and combing was done on a whim. Someone told him it couldn’t be done, so he set to work. He knew, to start, as little as I do about this “trade.” The destruction of a way of life, across the north of England and then around the world, was no part of his intention. But having achieved that, he lost interest, and moved on to his next invention.

Let me say that I am haunted by the ease of it, at every stage.

A great deal of false history was written, by people who never strayed north of London, about working-class hardship in those parts. Yes, there was plenty, but what we get from the entrepreneurs of socialism is twisted to their agitprop needs. Rewriting the history, to make it more true, makes another nice hobby; and in the course of it we discover that the ugliest of the capitalists often did less damage than the philanthropists.

But all were involved in the extraction of joy from life, merely for the sake of diminishing some sorrow.


While writing this Idlepost, I could not help but hear four loud cracks. Gunshots, I reflected; around here, one learns to distinguish them from firecrackers. And sure enough, the police eventually arrived. (Parkdale is not high in their priorities.) Was just chatting with one of these gentlemen in the hallway: very polite, and diligent in making his notes. And more informative than most. They have the smoking gun, as it were, and three spent cartridges (I had heard four, and insisted that I can count that high). But they seem to be missing both a shooter and a body — a serious inconvenience, I would think, when investigating a violent crime. Will have to check the hospitals, he supposes.

Not that any of this is directly relevant to what I wrote, above. But I do suspect an indirect relation.