The Fix For a “Boring Life” – Sei Shonagen – The Pillow Book

It feels natural, at times, to lament how boring our lives are. We do the same things each week, nothing special or exciting ever seems to happen. We enviously compare our dull routines to the adventures of others. An antidote to our sense of tedium can be found a thousand years ago in the work of Sei Shonagon, a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Place in Kyoto.
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“It feels natural, at times, to lament how boring our lives are. We do the same sorts of things each week, nothing special or exciting ever seems to happen. We enviously compare our dull routines to the adventures of others.
An antidote to our sense of tedium can be found in the work of Sei Shonagon. Around a thousand years ago, she kept a journal of the decade or so she spent as a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Place in Kyoto, then the capital of Japan. Despise the high-status of her job, her daily life was, externally, deeply uneventful: an afternoon’s carriage ride outside the walls of the court compound might be the highlight of a year; a day trip to hear a sermon in a temple seems to have been the farthest extent of her travels; she spent all most all of her time indoors, in just two or three rooms; she saw the same few people month after month; her work largely involved keeping respectfully silent, knowing when to bow and remembering the complex titles of various officials…”

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Produced in collaboration with:

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