Decadent Decay

My inspiration.

The juxtaposition (yes, I’m already throwing in the fancy art words) of decay and construction, disease and progress, filth and freedom, and all those other abstract but gritty realities—-this juxtaposition constantly confronts me on my commute.  I marvel that thousands of fellow commuters drive down into The City every day past hundreds of empty office parks because somehow, the empty lots, spruced up buildings, skyscrapers, and dingy corner houses make them more money than the urban sprawl.  My neighborhood in the suburbs is full of half-developed or utterly abandoned office spaces….why?

even a "skyscraper" abandoned

even a "skyscraper" abandoned

Does anywhere else but America have room for empty, unused buildings?

It makes me think back to my blog on Mon Oncle—a delicious French comedy about modernization.  Mssr. Hulot’s funny little house doesn’t seem to stand a chance against the garish, chilly advancement of his sister and brother-in-law’s “all-connected,” “totally modern” villa.  But somehow, the organic quality of Hulot’s house wins hands down, no questions asked.

Even in my clean, fresh home I love to surround myself with used things—-antique desks, battered wooden crates, old movie stills, distressed end tables.  Why?

Firstly, I think there is an element of value at work: the idea of touching and using something that was touched and used by somebody else reminds me that, like their material goods, those people were important.  They shouldn’t just be thrown away.  The newest office park shouldn’t command all the business and suck the old shop corners dry.  Secondly, beyond the value of the people once connected to the things which represent them, there is the value of the thing itself.  How much waste in the world would be alleviated if we embraced and reused what we had?  Modernization smacks of discontentment in a way the romantic image of the farmer never has.

But even the farmer was once revolutionary, and I’m sure the hunter-gatherers despised the idea of settling down, staking a claim, and covering the landscape with fences—the skyscrapers of the pre-modern world.  We must move forward, if only to make room for all the people coming after us, the generations of the unborn that have to find a habitable space on our planet.

And so we build. And build. And build.  Will we run out of room? Perhaps.  Should we slow our progress? Perhaps.  Could we use what has been done in the past? Perhaps.  Are we forever bound to that which decays? Perhaps.  But maybe not always.

14thSt modernization? (courtesy LastFreeMan.com)

14thSt modernization? (courtesy LastFreeMan.com)

We push and push and push for something more—-and while I commend thinking out of the box, I don’t like when people leave the cardboard box to decay on the side of the road.  Sometimes having limits forces us to be more creative than we had reason to expect we were capable of being.  Let’s reclaim creativity with the found objects, the frustrating obstacles, the sweat, the blood, the tears and leave the cold wash of metal enclosure to another planet in another age.

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