THE RITUAL OF THE CHURCH OF THE SELF
I’m not sure what happens between sleep and coffee. I couldn’t tell you if I’ve ever actually been present in those moments, at least not in spirit anyway. I can only imagine that after I have set the kettle to boil, achieved only by some intrinsic, ineradicable instinct, hardwired into the brain for survival in the modern jungle, I must stand in the kitchen and just sort of… stare? Just stare into the garden. There’s a difference between staring in these moments and actually seeing, and in these moments, I must be doing the former. Staring into the garden but not seeing flowers, just staring into some deep vortex of timeless grey stains on the fabric of reality itself. Not hearing bird song, only white noise that rises and rises towards a crushing crescendo so powerful it could split the house in half, destroying the bricks themselves, reducing them to rubble and dust around me, leaving nothing but the lonesome figure of a man… in a Kimono … just sort of… staring.
Luckily, the neighbours are spared this grim sight by the tiny flicking-off of the kettle as boiling point is achieved. A movement and sound so minute and yet powerful enough to cut through the white noise and close the ever deepening chasm of nothingness that mere seconds ago stretched out before me for miles in every direction. Beans, then milk, then water, no sugar, stir, sip, exhale, rinse, lather, repeat, shower, wash face, wash hair, rinse, lather, repeat. Ritual is being replaced by repetition, where there used to be chanting there is now shouting at traffic, our idea of penance is 10k on the cross trainer to atone for the sin of pizza. There could even be some pun here comparing The 12 Stations of the Cross to the morning commute but frankly, it will take a better man than myself to come up with it. So where can I manage to fit ritual in my life? In between all the information in the universe being beamed into my home at the speed of light on a minute by minute basis, in between reality TV and football and advertising and wanting to work on my body and wanting to go to work on some dim-sum, where can I fit a nice healthy dose of ritual?
Cut to the bedroom: a man de-kimono’s and stands before the wardrobe. First up is underwear, always pants before socks and always right sock before left. I was oddly superstitious as a child and some fragments have lasted with me into adulthood. Venetian blinds not being perfectly horizontal or not having all slats sitting in the same direction being one of them, but the sock thing being the most prominent. Alas, I digress. Once properly deodorised and pomaded, aftershave can be applied, then watch, then signet ring and finally the not-too-sleazy looking gold chain. Now for the clothing, the true ritual of the day, the hair and jewellery is merely foreplay.
Now, it’s June, it’s summer and as we all know, that means at some point today there might be a single glimmer of sunlight to interrupt the hail and ruin the tropical thunderstorm that sits above London, so, it’s best we prepare. The shirt is the first to leave the wardrobe like a prize stuffed toy from the teddy picker. I will be wearing something lightweight in summery colours, nice bold blue and white candy stripes, a wide cutaway colour, button cuffed. Starting with the second button from the top we work downstream until we’re ready for the tuck. Once the shirt is on, we’re looking at trousers, again, lightweight and breathable are the watchwords today. Without going into detail, you probably know the drawbacks of wearing heavy worsted wool on the Central Line in the Summer months (and you thought the Kimono imagery was disgusting…) We land on blue mohair, not quite navy, but rich in tone and complimentary of the blue and white shirt and the brown accessories, think watch strap, sunglasses etc. The trouser waistband sits on the 6th shirt button down from the collar, the slightly higher longer rise and higher waisted look will make me seem slimmer than I actually am. Asides from their powers of instant weight loss, these trousers possess another unique quality in that they stand up to creasing too, so even if I do get a seat on the train, I won’t regret it by the time I get into work, all fresh as a daisy and sharp as a pin. Once we’re tucked in and side fasteners adjusted we can think about the jacket. Cream linen, half lined and unstructured. Pure Italian looking business. Brown horn buttons to compliment the blues and pick out the watch strap and sunglasses, an open weave to keep me from smelling homeless by the time I get home this evening. What follows are the finishing touches: I’m going for a plain white silk pocket square today, folded neatly as opposed to puffed up and peacocky. This way I won’t look ‘over-accessorised’ when I add my small blue and white, knitted wool lapel pin, which I do, then it’s pure white trainers a la The Courageous Man and voila, today’s ritual is complete. Now it’s off to get stuck behind tourists as I try and make it up an escalator at the station. Rinse, lather, repeat.