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Six Feet Under, Sei Shonagon, and the World of Pre-Modern Blogging

A reference at the Curmudgeonly Clerk to an article on HBO's series Six Feet Under makes me sorry I didn't both watching the series. It appears that there's a rather nuanced attitude towards abortion, with at least two scenes in which an aborted fetus meets someone responsible for the abortion in an afterlife. As quoted in this article in National Review:

In the show's second season, Nate Fisher (engaged at the time) confronts an old flame (Lisa) who tells him she's pregnant with his child — and that she's choosing to have the baby. Keeping with the show's habit of employing ghostly visions and apparitions, we later see Nate working late in his office. A little girl enters, about seven years old.

"Hi," she says. "You killed me. It was about seven years ago, remember? You drove Lisa to have me killed.

Nate looks up, horrified.

"Oh, don't get me wrong," she says, "I don't harbor any bad feelings or anything. I'm pro-choice. Well, at least I would be, if I were alive."

Not what you normally see on American television. It brought to my mind another woman dreaming of a string of aborted babies haunting her, a woman in another society in which abortion was religiously discouraged but fairly openly tolerated:

One night, as I lay gazing into the past through the window of my heart, calling to mind my various wanton doings, I seemed to see a procession of some ninety-five different childlike figures, each child wearing a hat in the form of a lotus leaf and each one stained with blood from his waist down... Then I perceived to my grief that these were the children whom I had conceived out of wedlock and disposed of by abortion.

At first I could have sworn that was from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, but it's actually from Ihara Saikaku's The Life of an Amorous Woman. Which doesn't prove much of anything, except for the fact that this particular aspect of the abortion debate pre-dates Roe v. Wade by a couple of centuries.

In the process of prodding my memory for that quote, I started looking through the Pillow Book once again. Anyone who is interested in blogging ought to take a look at it, because in substance and style it's very similar to modern 'vanity blogs.' You find the same musings about life, love, and office politics, but written around 1000 A.D. It's amazing how familiar some of these diary entries seem: I keep expecting to find hyperlinks.


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