Her Majesty’s Remotes

Reflecting on the death of Queen Elizabeth, the British-American author Andrew Sullivan wrote how “staggeringly rare [the Queen’s] level of self-restraint is today. Narcissism is everywhere. Every feeling we have is bound to be expressed. Self-revelation, transparency, authenticity — these are our values.”

Reality TV comes to mind. Just because I can watch pimples being popped doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It will not enhance my life.

Because I had to be at work, I watched the Queen’s funeral in snippets and got but a glimpse into its pageantry. As photos of Queen Elizabeth looped again and again on TV, photos of her ubiquitous purse made me smile.

“Like Queen Elizabeth, she is!” Years ago, I recall my aunt and mother laughing about a friend who, like the monarch, was never without her purse.

Late at night, when I was trying to unwind from the day, I found myself wondering about the contents of the queen’s famous purse. Cash? No need. Kleenex? She was undoubtedly more of the handkerchief type. Breath mints? Quarters for parking meters? If ever I become queen—admittedly the chances of that are slimming by the minute—one of the key benefits would be not having to carry a purse.

Royalty is wasted on the wrong people.

I also found myself thinking—late at night on my sofa—about Queen Elizabeth’s nightstand. Specifically, what resides on it?

This summer, vacationing at the beach, we rented a condo. It was well outfitted except in one regard. While the master bedroom sported two nightstands, there was only one lamp. However, in the same bedroom, there were eight TV remotes.

It seems this is a trivial reminder of the errors of our age. When and why did TV remotes displace reading lamps? Are there no longer couples who both want to read at night? Has mindless TV replaced discourse and reading in our marital beds? It seems our lives are driven by instantaneous entertainment and our eyes constantly assaulted by moving colors and images deep into the night. I fear we have forgotten our love for the quiet, important discourse that creeps across the duvet, lost the ability to abandon ourselves in words on a page—to feel the indulgence of a story well told.

A few years ago I visited my daughter and son-in-law and made the not-so-overt suggestion that a couple staying in their guest room might BOTH be bedtime readers—coincidentally like the two of them. My daughter took my hint and on the next visit there was a lamp for each of us.

I have no doubt that Queen Elizabeth’s nightstand bore a good reading lamp. For in her we have the very model of restraint: someone who undoubtedly knew the joy of reading, the beauty of silence, the glory of words unspoken and passions checked. A woman whose rising and reclining, whose days and nights, were synonymous with grace.

As Sullivan pointed out, “With [the Queen’s] death, it’s hard not to fear that so much she exemplified — restraint, duty, grace, reticence, persistence — are disappearing from the world.”

Not in my house. Reading lamps reign supreme.

One thought on “Her Majesty’s Remotes

  1. After our Sunday school lesson today, the queen could be described as meek. Most people probably won’t understand that characterization. Either way, our world would be a better place if we all practiced restraint.


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