Everyone (Nobody?) Should read this New York Times Magazine article on the commodification of nothingness

Writer Kyle chaka, author of the new book The desire for less: living with minimalism, has an amazing new companion article in New York Times Magazine titled “How Nothingness Became All We Wanted.” It begins with Chaka’s own journey into the sensory deprivation reservoir trend that had started sweeping America before the pandemic, and explores how Americans in particular (but not only) have sought capitalist solutions to overstimulation. everyday. Chaka traces the most ironic of twists and turns – which the commercial bodhisattva-ism industry had steadily grown – through the unexpected COVID-19 outbreak, which forced people into a state of nothingness that also went against the grain. individual, consumer-oriented choice. a trend that was accentuated.

For years, an aesthetic mode of nothingness has taken over – a literally nihilistic attitude visible in all fields of culture, an intention to destroy alienity in all its forms, right down to noise, decoration, possessions. , identities and face-to-face meetings included. -interaction with the face. Over the past decade, American consumers have glorified the pursuit of the cheap in the form of emptied spaces like the open floor plans of start-up offices, austere loft-condo buildings, and anonymous Airbnbs. The minimalism of the Marie Kondo school advocated dropping goods that left empty white walls to followers. This desire for disappearance makes luxury synonymous with seeing, hearing, possessing and even feeling less.

Then, in March 2020, much of our life in the outside world that had been so hectic came to a halt when the first round of coronavirus lockdowns hit the United States. Beside so much tragedy and despair, the mass quarantine represented a final accomplishment of the pursuit of nothingness, especially for the privileged classes who could adapt to it in such relative comfort, plunged back into the cushions of the sofa of the Spare country houses, equipped with grocery deliveries. , Netflix shows and live exercise classes. This interregnum has often seemed to me to be a full, full-time session of sensory deprivation. The quarantine has been widely seen as a radical break in our daily lives and in our interactions with the world, but in truth, it is simply an overdose of the indulgences that a certain segment of the population was already venturing into. We’re a bit like kids caught with a cigarette, forced to smoke a whole bunch at once.

This obsession with absence, the intentional erasure of oneself and one’s environment, is the apotheosis of what I have come to consider as a culture of negation: a set of cultural productions, from material goods to franchises. from entertainment to lifestyles, which testify to a desire to reject the overstimulation that defines contemporary existence. This setback, which set in the decade before the pandemic, betrays a grim undercurrent: a growing failure of optimism about the possibilities of our future, a disillusion that the Covid-19 and its economic crisis do not. have only intensified. It’s as if we wanted to get rid of everything in advance, including our expectations, so that we have nothing more to lose.

There’s a lot going on in this room. But this is a lot that deserves reflection. Because it’s the kind of “a lot” that deals primarily with nothingness, in a way that isn’t exclusively or even necessarily gloomy. So I guess it’s not much either, because it’s literally nothing. Or at least, our search for nothing, in prepackaged and merchandised form. And what happens when we find it. Except that all is not bad? Or at least, not necessarily; it really depends more on your point of view, because obviously there is value in escaping the overstimulation of reality and –

Anyway, just read it. Or listen to it, if you subscribe to Audm.

How nothingness became all we wanted [Kyle Chayka / New York Times Magazine]

Image: darwin bell / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

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