On down

When I think about tools, I think of portable instruments that extend the power of our hands. But we’ve developed a complex arsenal extending the function of all other body parts – clothes and skin, bicycles and legs, optical instruments and eyes. Indeed, we may think of our whole technological environment as a complex set of imbricated tools. There is a space, however, where functional artifacts seem essentially different: the bedroom and its many trappings, designed optimally for rest and pleasure. So much I associate the idea of a tool with that of action or production.

Today, I went on a trip to Ikea, and bought a luxury down pillow. I am a bad sleeper and as such, I have developed a particular bed fetish. I like to curl up in fluffy down, wrapped in my own micro-climate, isolating myself from the rest of the world. Only then would I feel ready to dream.

Quality bedding carries a sense of warmth and safety. But I experience mattresses, blankets and pillows as vaguely taboo. Today, I spent $99 on bedding, and feel somehow embarrassed. I hear Voltaire’s line in my head, ‘J’aime le luxe, et même la mollesse’, and feel not quite ascetic enough. I wouldn’t think too much of spending the same amount on books or a special dinner out.

Yet all afternoon, I’ve gone back and forth from the study to the bedroom, lay inside my quilt and gently rested my head on ‘Knavel’, feeling its soft, supporting embrace. I’m not sure whether this new pillow will forever cure my insomnia, give me reliable comfort at the end of each day, and let me wake up full of energy. But I’ll give it a try. Others would favour drugs – I choose feathers and down.

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