Remember Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”?
It’s still a total tune to this day. It is perhaps a bit ironic that a lot of the things she sings about aren’t technically “ironic” in the most denotative sense, as explained by Irish comedian Ed Byrne:
(side note: I searched for the word “ironic” in the OED, and it gave me this definition:
Of language, style, manner of expression, etc.: of the nature of, containing, or characterized by irony
How is that of any Christing use to anyone? If I don’t know what “ironic” means, it’s not very helpful to explain what it means by using the word “irony”, is it? Perhaps there’s a tinge of irony in there?)
But I digress.
Morissette’s classic song is essentially a list of shitty things, things she calls “ironic” such as rain on a wedding day; 10,000 spoons, no knives; etc.
Part of me wonders if Morissette has ever read Sei Shonagon’s “The Pillow Book”.
Shonagon was a Japanese writer who lived sometime around 966AD – 1017AD in what is now known as Kyoto.
Similar to “Ironic”, “The Pillow Book” is largely comprised of lists: random subjects with sometimes insightful, sometimes bizarre observations about her world.
It’s amazing how little I probably have in common with this gentlewoman and yet how so much of her writing appeals to me; “resonates”, if you will.
Some of them are highly relevant even in today’s world, some might say especially relevant:
#90. Infuriating things—Thinking of one or two changes in the wording after you’ve sent a message to someone, or written and sent off a reply to someone’s message.
Yeah. How many posts, instant messages, iMessages, texts, tweets, and statuses have we all sent that definitely should not have been sent? It’s such a minefield in this world of stupidly instant communication.
#90. continues with another infuriating thing:
Having hurriedly sewn something, you’re rather pleased with how nicely you’ve done it—but then when you come to pull out the needle, you find that you forgot to knot the thread when you began.
I can’t directly relate to this one, but we all know how it feels to lose a document you’ve spent hours working on. I seriously considered dropping a university course a few years ago when this happened; I probably should’ve because I lost all heart for the subject matter.
It’s also infuriating to discover you’ve sewn something inside out.
Fuck yeah. I find it infuriating when I put a sweater on inside out. I can’t imagine having sewn it that way.
A Confusing Digression
(Do people “sew” sweaters, or “knit”? I always get those confused. I also always confuse “indica” and “sativa” (which can be VERY infuriating) and “bow” and “stern” (my fishermen ancestors would feel deep shame.) I also confuse “ancestors” and “descendants”… I had to look up those words just now to make sure I used the right one.)
#91. Things it’s frustrating and embarrassing to witness—A guest has arrived and you’re sitting talking when people inside begin a conversation of a confidential nature, and you have to sit there hearing it, powerless to stop them.
In fairness, I revel in incidental eavesdropping. Oftentimes, if I’m accidentally eavesdropping, I will begin to actively eavesdrop, even if I don’t give a solitary fuck about what is being discussed.
#91. continues with frustrating and embarrassing things to witness:
Similarly, your lover becomes terribly drunk, and starts coming out with confidential things when he can be overheard.
Truth be told, it’s usually I who is the drunken boor, revealing things to strangers that should be not revealed. So I can’t completely relate to this one, but yeah, I can totally see how that would be super frustrating. I’ve been told all this before.
It’s the random lists that Shonagon provides that really make me giggle though:
#92. Startling and disconcerting things—The way you feel when an ornamental comb that you’re in the process of polishing happens to bump against something and suddenly snaps.
Yeah, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times an ornamental comb has snapped in my hands while polishing. Such a startling event, for sure.
#92. continues with startling and disconcerting things:
An ox cart that’s been overturned. You’ve assumed that something of such enormous bulk must of course be thoroughly stable, and you’re simply stunned to see it lying there, and deeply disconcerted.
Yeah, those ox carts can be a real mind-fuck. It’s also disconcerting when you see a semi overturned on the highway. Or a whale beached upon the shore. Or Roberto Duran pleading “no mas” in the face of utter destruction at the hands of Sugar Ray Leonard.
Shonagon would probably call these event “startling and disconcerting”, Morissette would likely call it “ironic”. What right do I have to say who’s correct in the matter?