Walking to work today, I felt an extraordinary sensitivity to my surroundings. The cars rushed by me with a certain kind of violence, and the slur of the oversized tires against the watery pavement assailed my conscience. I couldn't hear my own thoughts. Maybe because it's the winter solstice today. In general, now in the safety and the heat and the dryness of the indoors, it's encouraging to think that every day will now get brighter and brighter.
And now on to more worldy thoughts. Adam sent me this article today and I am currently feeling that exhiliration of agreement that you can only feel with the writing of a strange person whom you will never meet. It's written by Kenneth Frampton, who teaches at Columbia. It's about architecture and politics in our modern world, but it's poses a larger question: What are we to make of the way that our free market democracy has morphed into a soul-less consumer society?
Okay, I added the "soul-less" part. But it is Frampton who writes "there is nonetheless a tendency to avoid any reference to the benighted socialist alternative, as though this political option is so discredited by history and the triumph of the market as to be irrelevant." It's true. Socialism (forget Communism….and what about Liberal? Vegan?) is a taboo word. I mean, people don't get put on trial for it (yet), but they certainly get spied on by the FBI.
He also writes:
"today's brand designers are not only dedicated to the gratification of consumer taste but also to the stimulation of desire, knowing full well that everything depends on the sublimating eroticism of consumption as opposed to the intrinsic quality of the thing consumed."
So he is talking about architecture, but hey, this makes sense to me, who previously wrote: "The desire to identify with intangibles like ideas or thoughts has been supplanted by the need to acquire things in order to establish a sense of identity." (full text of my philosophy here)
Frampton writes of Rem Koolhaas' (celebrity designer of our spectacular public library here in Seattle) thoughts on shopping:
"Shopping is arguably the last remaining form of public activity," Koolhaas once said, and "argues that 'not shopping' is the only luxury left in the late modern world."
It being the holiday season, the shopping mania is in high gear. I, meanwhile, continue to explore the other options. I encourage you to do the same. For those of you in New York City, this will be easier, since you cannot really get farther than you are willing to walk, thanks to the socialist (ah! that word!) activities of the transit system. Maybe that Magnolia cupcake, Zabar's lox, or gift certificate to Whole Foods you were going to get for your mom/partner/co-worker will have to be replaced by some sort of product of your own luxurious inspiration.