Skip to content

Celebrating the Overlooked

I appreciate any effort to rescue the neglected noble: those little things that are good but nobody notices. It could be a person, it could be a garden.

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, extolling the virtue of the motorcycle over the car. I tend to agree with him, though I've never ridden a motorcycle.
Fatty Bolger

I walk a lot. Pirsig is probably right about the car, and he probably correctly praises the motorcycle with observations like this one: "You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming."

But I gotta believe walking is the motorcycle experience on steroids, or maybe a steroidal valium of some sort. In or on a vehicle, the world whirls by. Not so on foot. In a car, it's natural not to notice things. On foot, it's unnatural not to notice things.

Awhile back, I started a website dedicated to pictures of lovely places around my small town. It was going to be a natural extension of my quotidian peripatetic. I routinely walk around my hometown of 10,000 people and come across small houses with unique, quirky, or pretty front yards and porches. I figured I would take pictures of them and start posting them online anonymously. Regrettably, I started the website and took the pictures, but the two never wed.

In retrospect, it strikes me that the pictures I took--and the houses that still appeal to me--were well-ordered houses in the poorer areas of town. My town has a lot of wealthy people with magnificent yards, but I tend to overlook them. I like the little houses that, instead of looking like the meth dens that tend to migrate to those areas, are decorated and well-ordered in some manner.

It doesn't even matter to me whether the presentation is to my taste. I remember one little house with a front-yard filled with Dollar Tree yard ornaments. It was tacky, quite frankly, but dang, those ornaments were new, well-spaced, and working hard. It was nice, in its garish way.

The little (and cheap and neglected and condescended) but good. I should probably try to find one such thing every day and celebrate it. It'd be my symbolic middle finger to the darkening clouds of bigness that seem to be enveloping our country.

My celebration today? This celebration of Tolkien's smallest character: Fatty Bolger. Sam Gamgee isn't the unsung hero of The Lord of the Rings. Hero, yes, but not unsung. In fact, I've grown tired of hearing Sam's praises. Fatty Bolger, OTOH, was everything: little, heroic, and unsung.

Fatty Bolger, a Local Hero - Front Porch Republic
Perhaps Pippin is right, but none of the friends call Fredegar Fatty anymore, and those chaps know something about heroics.