Years ago I came across this quotation by philosopher Edmund Burke: "Order is the foundation of all good things." Now, in reading about how to put together a personal Rule of Life, I find that order is an important, even a foundational, component of the life one is trying to establish through such a Rule.
It's not entirely a coincidence that I'm also re-reading the novel Shadows on the Rock, by Willa Cather. The main characters are a French apothecary and his daughter, inhabitants of the city of Quebec in 1698 and the years following. The apothecary's wife had died some years earlier but the influence of her beliefs and actions lives on in the civilized nature of their lives.
Before her death, Madame Auclair had instructed her young daughter in how to run a French household. She had explained:
. . . you will perhaps find it fatiguing to do all these things alone, over and over. But in time you will come to love your duties, as I do. You will see that your father's whole happiness depends on order and regularity, and you will come to feel a pride in it. . . . At home, in France, we have learned to do all these things in the best way, and we are conscientious, and that is why are called the most civilized people in Europe and other nations envy us.
Madame Auclair realizes that she will not live much longer, and she worries whether her young daughter will be able to preserve the heritage she had brought with her to the New World:
. . . something so precious, so intangible; a feeling about life that had come down to her through so many centuries and that she had brought with her across the wastes of obliterating, brutal ocean. . . . She wanted to believe that . . . life would go on almost unchanged in this room with its dear (and, to her, beautiful) objects; that the proprieties would be observed, all the little shades of feeling which make the common fine.
The individuality, the character, of M. Auclair's house, though it appeared to be made up of wood and cloth and glass and a little silver, was really made of very fine moral qualities in two women . . . .
She relates that, as a result, the townspeople were "glad of any excuse to stop at the apothecary's shop."
Much later in the book, the young daughter has occasion to stay overnight with a family in which these traditions are not observed. When she returns home, she rejoices in all that she finds there --
These coppers, big and little, these brooms and clouts and brushes, were tools; and with them one made, not shoes or cabinet-work, but life itself.
Cather winds up with this marvelous sentence:
One made a climate within a climate; one made the days, -- the complexion, the special flavour, the special happiness of each day as it passed; one made life.
Shadows on the Rock is a quiet book. Nothing particularly dramatic occurs in its pages. It is, however, something of a celebration of one kind of beautiful life. I recommend it. (Actually, I recommend just about anything by Willa Cather.)