August 8th, 2005

operesque

Beauty Week 5: Imagine!

"The beautiful life" is a kind of utopia, a personal utopia you picture from time to time. It's set in the future, of course. The near future when you're in an optimistic frame of mind, the far future when you're gloomy, and, when you're suicidal, never. It's a series of hopes both personal and political, a series of glimpses of better ways of living, for you and for the world. It makes moot any division between politics and aesthetics.

In your daydream of "the beautiful life" you're living with a beautiful woman in an ultramodern city where cars are a thing of the past. Or you're living with a man, or in a commune! The thing about your city, though, is that it's full of lakes and forests and can barely be distinguished from the countryside. There's lots of cultural activity, the military has been eradicated, people have embraced collectivity, there are benign circles of trust spiralling upwards, everybody is "rich", but money no longer matters. There's no longer any metonymic representation: parts do not stand for wholes. The "designated particular" no longer asserts its universality. There is no God, so everything is sacred. Nature and culture are no longer opposites, and neither are communism and capitalism. Nobody locks their front door. In fact, there are no front doors any more, just an endless series of interconnected rooms.

Although lots of things (like the Post Office) are collectively owned, capitalism co-exists with those public goods. But it has refined and reformed itself. It no longer sells toxic stuff like weapons. The company is still called "Coca Cola" but instead of selling Coke, which shortens your life, it sells green tea, which lengthens it. Capitalism now wears the loose flowing robe of a Greek sculpture, wears a serene, contemplative expression. Imagine! And no religion too!

Although it contains moral and ethical elements, the beautiful life as it appears in your mind (perhaps in the moments before you fall asleep after sex, with your lover scratching your back gently and the sound of pigeons cooing in the background) is predominantly visual. It's beautiful because it looks beautiful. This is a world where you can judge a book by the cover, and where "only the shallow do not judge by appearances". But you're never misled, because the ethical goodness in things is encoded visually in them, and what you know to be ethically bad cannot look good to you.

You wake up the following day and decide to become a design writer.