The biggest thing we distract ourselves with (in the Western world) is no longer pleasure but finding meaning. It’s much easier to get caught up in finding meaning rather than doing, feeling, perceiving.
I’m questioning what that is — meaning. What does it “mean” to have a meaningful life? What does it “mean” to create a meaningful thing? And mostly, why does everything have to “mean” something?
I think our quest for finding meaning has become religious and incessant in its pursuit in a way that no longer contributes to the genuine development of the search. It’s a default mode of being that isn’t necessarily expansive; instead, it is obsessive and relentless and inherently tied to a type of perfection. It’s odd that way, how relinquishing actually renders freedom.
There’s some phrase stirring said by someone at some point — I’ve conflated flowers blooming with sunsets but whatever. The thing is: they just do. They just happen. And if I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that “just do your best” tends to cover most if not everything.
There is a general understanding that advertising works mostly by ‘emotional inception’: because of the ads you see, you subconsciously start associating certain values with a brand. In this piece, Kevin Simler argues that advertising works mostly because of ‘cultural imprinting’, “a the mechanism whereby an ad, rather than trying to change our minds individually, instead changes the landscape of cultural meanings – which in turn changes how we are perceived by others when we use a product.”
Mass culture itself has become a subculture — a sort of sideshow to the real action, the way that Joe Rogan, a mass culture icon, merely provides a stage for other subcultural phenomena, or the way that NPR-loving liberals are now identifiable as a very specific category, not the default. Class still exists, but there’s no longer just one aesthetic per class. Instead, “class” is expressed merely by price points that exist within consumer subcultural categories.1