What We Believe
As the velocity and size of our data swells to inhuman proportions, it has become increasingly unrealistic to know and increasingly essential to believe. A belief is not an assertion of fact, but rather a projection of the willΓÇöpointed, yet flexible amidst inevitable states of flux. WHAT WE BELIEVE began as a series of keywords designed to circumvent the conflict adverse atmosphere of a ΓÇ£post-everythingΓÇ¥ culture. Yet as it evolves, it has become a guide for doing business, a fluid set of protocols for an age of uncertainty. WHAT WE BELIEVE is provocative of the present-tense tensions that contribute to the new. It embraces doubt not as a critical scapegoat for techno-cultural insecurity, but as a starting point towards decision-making. As Kanye West told a group of Oxford students last year, it could be ΓÇ£completely fucking with you, and the world, the entire time.ΓÇ¥ It then moves past doubt, with a Kanye-level measure of conviction. WHAT WE BELIEVE harvests energy from the irritations and confrontations of the now, in the service of the future.┬áWe donΓÇÖt know this, but weΓÇÖre telling you anyway.
Energy is the capacity to do work, and to produce change. It may well produce change, but will never quantitatively undergo it. It is contained in every object, person, animal and system. By the laws of energy conservation, it cannot be lost or, despite the usual eco-vocabulary, wasted. Thermodynamic entropy will cool your soup or melt the ice cubes in your drink, but as a measure of disorder and chaos in media as well as physics, entropy is an overlooked function. With information entropy, noise balances that information by increasing with it, as nonsense does with sense. Messages are thus communicated transformatively, without for a second losing power. That is the process that incurs the most powerful and productive kind of change.
Sex is at once the most commercialized thing on the planet and the most resistant to commercialization. It has been made phenomenally public and yet it remains deeply private. It is an instance or state of being that is thought and talked about constantly, but not in any proper terms, because it is a physical matter, a question of impulse, not intellect. It is beautiful and it is horrifying. It is impermeable to the perversion of culture and it is the perversion of culture. So it is, officially, the most mysterious non-mystery ever ΓÇô a paradox so unfathomable that the only thing to do about it is embrace our fascination. Obsess about it. Reproduce it, and sell it. Censor it. Celebrate it. Practice it as much as possible. It will never lose interest, and it will never lose power. Fighting it is to fight a losing battle. So just let sex win.
Intercourse also means communication with others. Hot!
4. WORK (I)
If you reject work, you are not doing it properly. If you think work is exclusive of magic, you are not being creative enough. If you think work is exclusive of pleasure, you are old-fashioned.Balance only matters if you perceive the creative world in a binary of black and white. INDUSTRY IS SEXY. The impulse to work should be as unapologetic and immediate as the impulse to eat or to fuck.
5. WORK (II)
WORKING VS. STEALING
There is a meme re-circulating right now that quotes Fran Lebowitz's argument that no one earns $100 million a year, they steal it. People earn $10 an hour, she says, or $40,000 a year; they steal their $100 million. We're not actually condemning thieves or anyone else. It's just essential that every one understands these nuances.
You are mistaken if you think using the word ΓÇ£loveΓÇ¥ is enough to conjure the thing itself. Love is an inclusive form of energy. Do it hard, impossibly, radically, and as often as possible. Understand that love is not opposed to entropy, to mutiny, to mold, or to matter. Understand that while love is changeable, it is not exchangeable. To commodify it is corrupt, like deep-drilling for fuel when renewable energy surrounds us in the earth, air, and sea.
It is na├»ve to exclude work and politics from a family model based on love. To speak of ΓÇ£making timeΓÇ¥
for family is to make it exclusive of social and creative life. But the family is immersive, a function of a greater communal impulse. The nuclear private life is an outmoded, Anglo-Saxon constraint, a construction that carries on in a merely 3-D reality while the rest of the universe expands, rapidly. We count dimensions in double digits now.
We believe in an inherent politics to every gesture, word, and image. This is not a cop-out, and it is not a dismissal of outspoken politics. It is a view towards political immanence that takes responsibility for the role and influence of cultural output. It acknowledges the potential meaning ΓÇô in context, content, function, and form ΓÇô of the building as it is architected, the body as it is photographed, the page as it is laid out, and the technology as it is engineered. Acknowledge the politics of your product, then be recklessly accountable for it.
9. POLITICO-SEXUAL ΓÇ£SHOCK VALUEΓÇ¥ IS THE MOST RETARDED WORD PAIRING IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND WE HEREBY BANISH IT.
Earth has become atmospherically unstable. As our computer simulation models for forecast and early warning improve, weather and seismic patterns seem to become increasingly unpredictable, and dramatically so. The repetitive rhythm of the seasons once ingrained in our understanding of the world have been violently disrupted. Meanwhile, we cling stubbornly to the learned cycle. Yet this clinging is no way to survive an atmospheric disturbance, let alone move forward within it. Rafters are told to remain supple and lithe should they fall into river rapids, allowing their bodies to bend to the rocks and other dangers they may encounter as they are propelled downstream. Rigidly resisting the current will get you killed. Letting yourself flow with it will take you somewhere new. It is time to embrace instability on a universal level. Stable systems are flat, static. Instability is volatility. It is seismic change. It is volcanic activity. In structural engineering, a system can become unstable when excessive load is applied. But excess is sexy ΓÇô apply it freely. Destabilize your life, and live at the accelerated pace of the world.
IRRITATION IS UNPLEASANT. TO IRRITATE IS TO ROUSE IMPATIENCE, ANGER, OR EVEN PAIN. IT IS TO ANNOY OR CHAFE, AND SOMETIMES IT IS TO BURN, OR ENFLAME. THEREIN LIES ITS POSITIVE POTENTIAL. UNPLEASANT OR NOT, AN IRRITATION IS A PROVOCATION. JUST AS AN ITCH DEMANDS TO BE SCRATCHED, AN IRRITATION TRIGGERS AN ACTIVE RESPONSE ΓÇô A DIRECT, SOMETIMES AGGRESSIVE ENGAGEMENT WITH THE SITUATION AT HAND. IRRITATION IS PRODUCTIVE, A NATURAL STIMULANT. AN OYSTER RESPONDS TO AN IRRITANT BY DEPOSITING LAYERS OF CALCIUM CARBONATE AROUND THE OBJECT TO FORM A PEARL ΓÇô AN ORIGINAL THING BORN FROM TRIVIAL DEBRIS. SEEN AS A PROVOCATION, IRRITATION BECOMES A POSITIVE EFFECT, JUST AS DIALOGUE IS MORE PRODUCTIVE THAN SILENCE, AND REACTION PREFERABLE TO STASIS.
In 1988, WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS was in London trying to explain ALFRED KORZYBSKI to KATHY ACKER when he said, perhaps obviously, that ΓÇ£one of the basic errors of Western thought is either/or. Something is either instinctive or intellectual, either hereditary or environmental ΓÇô this split which of course does not exist in fact. ItΓÇÖs both/and.ΓÇ¥ That means, for instance, that it is possible to be both hard and soft at the same time, which is fantastic. Casually repeating oneself is nonchalance distilled, which is chic. Thus duplicity isnΓÇÖt a vice at all ΓÇô itΓÇÖs a virtue ΓÇô and multiplicity is even better.┬áRemember that promiscuity is not antithetical to rigor. This is the 21st century: anything trying to appear exclusive looks conservative now, and the cult of authenticity looks na├»ve. Disconnect, unhinge yourself from absolutes and you wonΓÇÖt even need to think about things like intellectual property, because you will have moved on to the next idea.
Intransitive whining is a bad idea. Complaints regarding workload, illness, elective activities, and lack or excess of sleep or sex are especially counter-productive. Exceptions to this include complaints that are formulated in a way that is either incredibly entertaining, or directly provocative of change. A grievance that is neither stimulant nor dynamic is a waste of time that could be spent building, researching, chasing, or fucking something.
14. Generosity (Part I)
Just because a colleague, a lover, or a comrade is not complaining doesnΓÇÖt mean he or she might not need a hand from time to time. Being generous and impulsive with your spirit is community-building and fun. Generally speaking, you should never address life by seeking to expend less energy, resources, or enthusiasm; you should make more instead. (This doesnΓÇÖt mean you have to be patient, however. There just isnΓÇÖt time for that anymore.
15. Generosity (Part II)
The celebrity selfie has come to be seen as an act of populist generosity. Group shots involving presidents and popes may feel big-hearted and authentic, their share statistics seldom rival those of HollywoodΓÇÖs Instagram elite, however. In an op-ed for The New York Times called ΓÇ£The Meanings of the Selfie,ΓÇ¥ James Franco wrote that as a social media self-portraitist, ΓÇ£YouΓÇÖre safe if you trade ΓÇÿone for themΓÇÖ with ΓÇÿone for yourself,ΓÇÖ meaning that for every photo of a book, painting or poem, I try to post a selfie with a puppy, a topless selfie or a selfie with Seth Rogen, because these are all things that are generally liked.ΓÇ¥ As this issue of 032c went to print, the latest item on the Fox News website read, ΓÇ£Kim KardashianΓÇÖs corset selfie raises questions: How dangerous is the practice of corseting?ΓÇ¥ The selfie is not merely a medium through which the celebrity can use his or her abundant beauty to spread happiness to his or her followers: it is a platform to raise aware- ness about critical social issues ΓÇô including those stemming from controversial fashion conventions! And the purchase of a new accessory such as a corset, but more commonly a hat, is a wonderful occasion for anyone to share and to educate.
16. HAVING IT ALL
PEOPLE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY ΓÇ£HAVE IT ALL.ΓÇ¥ ITΓÇÖS A PASSIVE, POSSESSION-ORIENTED PREOCCUPATION THAT CLEARLY PREDATES ΓÇô AND IS OUTDATED BY ΓÇô THE POST-DIGITAL AGE, IN WHICH THIS IDEA OF FINITE SELF-COMPLETION HAS BEEN REPLACED WITH AN UNKNOWABLE, EVER-EXPANDING WHOLE. STOP TAKING INTERNAL INVENTORY AND EMBRACE AN OUTWARD OUTLOOK AND YOU WILL SEE THAT ΓÇ£ALLΓÇ¥ MEANS NOTHING, AND THAT LIVING FOR EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING.
We would rather be falling into a creative abyss than
ceasing to change at all. Like the element mercury,
we are fiercely reliable, but reliably changeable.
We believe in reciprocity, not permanence.
We believe in touching, not in the partition.
We split our time between high and low like we are
in a long-distance relationship.
This is clearly reflective of the current industry climate and
those who are immovable will vanish from it soon.
The only possible way to do or make anything, ever, is by experimentation. Even a toddlerΓÇÖs existence is a series of experiments, mini-challenges pressed upon its environment and explored by trial-and-error. To cease to experiment is not only to cease to create in this world, but to renounce participation altogether. Non-experimentation is inert. In fact, if you are not experimenting, you might be dead. Stay as alive as possible.
Freedom from the known is a necessary condition for creation.
This is not simply a question of material freedom,
of a geographical mobility or lack of physical boundaries.
It is a question of intellectual,
emotional and carnal liberty.
It is a rejection of the accepted and the acceptable,
of the familiar.
It is an impulse towards the unseen and the unknown,
a thirst for newness.
Freedom from the known is structurally embedded into the Berlin cityscape. Physical space is abundant and accessible, and any site is fair game.
A mere subway ride separates NATO and the Warsaw pact.
But beyond that clich├⌐,
Berlin combines and entangles the imaginary,
and the real components of freedom.
The city has become a global symbol of post-intellectual creative life ΓÇô
a center in time where the walls of social convention and perceived truths are endlessly crumbling.
Embrace the freedom from the known that grows there,
and make it global.
20. THE ESTATE
Edmund Burke called print media the ΓÇ£fourth estateΓÇ¥ during a parliamentary debate in 1787. In an 1891 essay called ΓÇ£The Soul of Man Under Socialism,ΓÇ¥ Oscar Wilde cattily called it ΓÇ£the only estate.ΓÇ¥ Whether or not it had in fact crushed the traditional three that preceded it ΓÇô nobility, clergy, and common people ΓÇô this fourth power had entered a canon of social order that had structured Europe since the Middle Ages.
Dictionary.com estimates that the ΓÇ£fifth estateΓÇ¥ came about as an idiom in the 1960s ΓÇô well before the blogosphere, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks: The Movie. (There is, for instance, an anarchist periodical called the Fifth Estate that has been opera┬¡tive since 1965.) Each additional ΓÇ£estateΓÇ¥ seeks to lay claim to an unregulated space ΓÇ£outsideΓÇ¥ the tyranny of pre┬¡established social order. Yet each one calcifies in a matter of decades, begging the creation of another. There is nothing radical about this proliferation. The formulation of a fifth estate does nothing to dismantle the hierarchical systems in place; it simply shifts power ΓÇô or the public perception thereof ΓÇô to new leadership. We must retire ΓÇ£The Estate.ΓÇ¥ Murderers serve less prison time than hackers and whistle┬¡blowers in the United States now. This shows us that information is sovereign, not the social orders that feebly attempt to control and exchange it.
Blind faith has been out of vogue for some time now. The well-┬¡traveled left-┬¡leaner decries ΓÇ£organized religion,ΓÇ¥ ΓÇ£national pride,ΓÇ¥ ΓÇ£partisanship,ΓÇ¥ and/or similar communal impulses as such. Tell him/her that kale is healthy and that gluten is not, however, and he/she will swallow and regurgitate it as gospel, fucking with menus from Portland to Paris. This is the myopic, literal-minded behavior of the privileged, and it is irritating and corrosive.
Of course, the offender is not the belief, or the ΓÇ£believerΓÇ¥ ΓÇô be his/her convictions spiritual, political, or indeed, retarded ΓÇô but rather the visionless, literal mind so occupied by ΓÇ£lifestyleΓÇ¥ that it is incapable of big┬¡picture thought. ΓÇ£BreadΓÇ¥ is far greater than the plain combination of its ingredients ΓÇô it is something that we break together.
As noted above, information is really hot right now. ItΓÇÖs also become difficult to disentangle from aspiration. Our 21st┬¡ century technological reality is reflective of a cyberdream that originated during the Space Race and the initial cinematic release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which prefaced Skype video calls and the ΓÇ£tablet.ΓÇ¥ Start┬¡up offices look like Babylon 5. The headquarters of Bahnhof, the ISP in Stockholm that used to house the WikiLeaks server, make explicit architectural reference to villain┬¡ lair design in early Bond films. Raw, honest data is housed in environments saturated with fantasy; it is only as ΓÇ£trueΓÇ¥ and as strong as our ability to recognize the emotional, subjective aspects of these scenarios.
Speaking of 007, in Skyfall (2012), the twenty-┬¡third film in the James Bond franchise, M, played by Judy Dench, must defend her branch of military intelligence against accusations that the digital age has made its old ┬¡school espionage methods obsolete. For some reason, M opts to read the closing lines of Lord Alfred TennysonΓÇÖs Ulysses during her public inquiry, bypassing the best part: ΓÇ£Come, my friends, ΓÇÖtis not too late to seek a newer world.ΓÇ¥
Defaulting to the liberal norm is no longer acceptable. It betrays an uncritical approach to society and politics, a sheep-like mentality that is no better on the left than it is on the right. WhatΓÇÖs more, it has the damaging effect of providing a wall behind which to hide your beliefs, and an escape route from the grasp of accountability. This is a call for transparency ΓÇô not simply on the level of major government, but right down to the individual, no matter on which side of the imagined bipartisan line his or her politics fall. Ask that every person forge an ideological path, unencumbered by the cult of political labels or identifiers. We wonΓÇÖt judge your beliefs. But we will hold you gloriously accountable for them.
As a person moves through life, they are expected to become more and more ΓÇ£certain,ΓÇ¥ to operate with increased decisiveness, to cultivate an existence that minimizes confrontation and emphasizes peace. People grow to shun conflict, internal and external. But this is the surest path to monotony and conformity. There is a simple cure, however: we must become shamelessly conflicted. Conflict does not have to result in paralysis; its energy can be harnessed and put to use. It is the very source of newness, and the foundation of discourse. Relish each contradictory impulse within yourself, and every clash you encounter with another ΓÇô for these are moments of productivity and creation.
28. ARTS CENTER
AN ΓÇ£ARTS CENTERΓÇ¥ IS A BUILDING, NOT A CITY. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY STOP CALLING YOUR TOWN THAT. LET THE ARTS EMANATE, WHILE YOU TRY LOOKING FOR INNOVATION IN OTHER INDUSTRIES.
27. Creative Class
The ΓÇ£Creative ClassΓÇ¥ is a ΓÇ£boutique
advisory services firm.ΓÇ¥
It was founded by a ΓÇ£world-renowned
thought leader,ΓÇ¥ and its goal is to
ΓÇ£harnessΓÇ¥ communitiesΓÇÖ ΓÇ£innate creativity
to achieve greater prosperity and
well-being.ΓÇ¥ This sounds neither
particularly creative nor classy per se.
What it appears to ΓÇ£harnessΓÇ¥ is the
saccharine vocabulary of self-
improvement, a rhetoric of motivation
contingent on the insecurity or
perceived ineptitude of its recipient.
LetΓÇÖs stop self-mythologizing, roll up
our sleeves, and get to work.
28. Industry (I)
DoesnΓÇÖt it feel like a lot of people are moving to Los Angeles right now, or at least talking about ΓÇ£trying to spend more time in LAΓÇ¥? The weather is great there, and there is something glorious about a city that has been a creative establishment since the early 20th century, and yet always seems to be evolving a new cultural identity for itself. ItΓÇÖs also fantastic if youΓÇÖre the kind of artist/writer/musician/chef/collector/architect/ΓÇ£entrepreneurΓÇ¥ who is empowered by the proximity to celebrity that instills that particular sense of potential in the LA lands┬¡cape. While youΓÇÖre there, though ΓÇô and while youΓÇÖre anywhere else ΓÇô please make note of the human circuitry beneath that appealing veneer of iconicity. Development executives and copyright lawyers know things, which is sexier than a lot of whatΓÇÖs on the red carpet.
29. Industry (II)
Speaking of work: itΓÇÖs industry, not ΓÇ£The Industry.ΓÇ¥ That means making the effort, labels-be-damned. It means emancipating actual output from a professional narrative too often put before content today. It means recognizing the limits of your knowledge (theyΓÇÖre probably practical), and respecting the skills of others. It means working collaboratively without niche circumscription. ItΓÇÖs Latin, from industria ΓÇô for diligence, activity, and zeal. For cleverness, effort, and skill. For trade.
Example: There was a WorldΓÇÖs Fair in New York in the 1850s called the ΓÇ£Exhibition of the Industry of All Na- tions.ΓÇ¥ Walt Whitman wrote a poem about it. It is cheesy, patriotic, and generally mediocre by WhitmanΓÇÖs standards. Still, itΓÇÖs resonant when he introduces the New World to the Old as an ΓÇ£illustrious emigr├⌐,ΓÇ¥ when he serenades ΓÇ£all occupations, duties broad and close,ΓÇ¥ and locates wealth not merely in product (ΓÇ£gross or lucreΓÇ¥) but in something ΓÇ£electric, spiritual.ΓÇ¥
30. Great City
Did you just refer to something as a ΓÇ£great cityΓÇ¥? ThatΓÇÖs a tautology. Or at least we should endeavor to make it one. The criteria by which we assign a city its ΓÇ£tierΓÇ¥ ΓÇô be it ΓÇ£first,ΓÇ¥ ΓÇ£second,ΓÇ¥ ΓÇ£third,ΓÇ¥ ΓÇ£fourth,ΓÇ¥ or ΓÇ£fifthΓÇ¥ ΓÇô may need a little 21st-century nuancing in the meantime. We look at population, GDP, transportation and communications infrastructure, historical and cultural significance, and the relative abundance of entertainment, shopping, and dining options ΓÇô quantitative considerations, but hardly qualitative ones. We also look at growth potential, but in a way that is generally patronizing: ΓÇ£fastest growingΓÇ¥ certainly implies promise, but it doesnΓÇÖt get you onto the first tier. ThatΓÇÖs the ΓÇ£establishmentΓÇ¥ tier. And if it excludes cities in states of flux, that doesnΓÇÖt just imply status ΓÇô it implies stasis. Nobody gives a shit what theyΓÇÖre playing at the socio-economic equivalent of Studio 54. What if we ranked places not in terms of internal movement, but in favor of mobility on that vertical, hierarchical spectrum, be they on the ascent, or mid-fall? What if we gravitated towards first-tier places of change?
Did you know: The term ΓÇ£world cityΓÇ¥ dates from the 19th century ΓÇô thatΓÇÖs when it started to be used to describe hubs of disproportionate global business. Saskia SassenΓÇÖs 1991 coinage ΓÇô ΓÇ£global cityΓÇ¥ ΓÇô isnΓÇÖt just 1990s; itΓÇÖs 1890s. This just in: internationalism is possible and necessary outside the megacenter!
31. The Medium
So youΓÇÖve launched a ΓÇ£new magazineΓÇ¥; so you think youΓÇÖre gonna change the world. We think thatΓÇÖs sexy as hell. WeΓÇÖre probably going to want to touch the magazine all over; we might also want to ravage it and keep it forever. If itΓÇÖs online, maybe weΓÇÖll content-binge. But just because ΓÇ£mag hagsΓÇ¥ are sated doesnΓÇÖt mean weΓÇÖre all fulfilling the potential of our chosen format. We cannot embrace the moderate, middling, or central condition implied by the word ΓÇ£medium.ΓÇ¥ Look at the definition of ΓÇ£magazineΓÇ¥ instead. Nothing in it stipulates that it needs to be printed, to contain text and/or visuals, or to appear periodically. ItΓÇÖs Arabic, this time, from makhzan ΓÇô for storehouse, filled with goods, often with ammunition. The Makh-zan-i-Afghani is a Persian-language epic history of the Afghans; the Makhzan al-Irfan fi Tafsir al-Quran is a 20th-century Shia exegesis. In Morocco, ΓÇ£makhzanΓÇ¥ has historically referred to the sultanΓÇÖs court and retinue, to Berber power structure, and to the state apparatus. The magazine is not just a chronicle of ΓÇô or container for ΓÇô ideas conveyed, in words and image, to varying degrees of abstraction. ItΓÇÖs firepower. That vigor, and not its material or formal envelope, is the essence of the medium.
There is a tendency in the media of contemporary culture to objectify the products of design, to aestheticize them, to divorce them from their function. Performance, meanwhile, is a concept that has for too long been relegated to a corporate or industrial vocabulary. But material culture is meaningless if it is not put into action. Use is a critical part of design and industry. An object becomes beautiful in its being used ΓÇô the higher the function, the more stunning the product. Performance is the missing link between knowledge and design, and the momentum behind advanced creation. Performance is the force upon which the future is contingent and by which it is fulfilled. Performance must be harnessed today for an optimal tomorrow.
ΓÇ£Do-it-YourselfΓÇ¥ is an underrated concept. It is a far greater means of creation than the bricolage or handiwork it has grown to be associated with. It is synonymous with initiative and empowerment. It is inherently transgressive. To do something yourself is to do something without an invitation from the world, without conventional infrastructure or expected resources. The self-reliant gate-crash, the party of creation and innovation. They act without permission, and their work is more resilient, more impactful. You do not need an invitation to start an exhibition space or produce a magazine, to launch a social networking site or invent a computer operating system. Projects born against the odds are simply born stronger.
34. PharrellΓÇÖs Hat
The most fabulous thing about Pharrell Williams is the story of his giant hat. ItΓÇÖs a re-editioned Vivienne Westwood design from 1982, when it made its MTV debut in the video for Sex Pistols producer Malcolm McLarenΓÇÖs hip-hop single, ΓÇ£Buffalo Gals.ΓÇ¥ Pharrell bought his Mountain Hat in London, made a number of appearances wearing it, then auctioned it off on eBay to benefit his youth-oriented charity. The American fast food chain ArbyΓÇÖs purchased it for $44,100 ΓÇô clearly, the bargain of the century ΓÇô following a Twitter conversation in which the company noted the accessoryΓÇÖs resemblance to its logo. (ΓÇ£Hey, @Pharrell, can we have our hat back?,ΓÇ¥ tweeted ArbyΓÇÖs; ΓÇ£Hey ArbyΓÇÖs, you want my hat? NowΓÇÖs your chance,ΓÇ¥ Pharrell replied.) On the night that ArbyΓÇÖs announced its purchase, Pharrell appeared at the Oscars to perform his record-breaking single, ΓÇ£HappyΓÇ¥ ΓÇô wearing another hat of the identical design. This was a savage and extravagant gesture. It teaches us about the exponential combined value of generosity and hubris, pleasantry and gravitas, insouciance and engagement ΓÇô the marriage of which amounts to a purposeful and post- (or neo-?) aristocratic kind of fearlessness.┬áPharrellΓÇÖs hat is a democratic symbol of plenitude. The hat is a crown ΓÇô headgear of power, legitimacy, victory, honor, righteousness and resurrection ΓÇô and it is available in every fathomable color for a mere $180. The hat runneth over.
Generally speaking, ΓÇ£happinessΓÇ¥ isnΓÇÖt particularly sophisticated as a life goal or mindset; weΓÇÖre not grumpy, we just donΓÇÖt ascribe to its cult per se. It isnΓÇÖt obvious, but PharrellΓÇÖs ΓÇ£HappyΓÇ¥ is different. The song debuted on the soundtrack of Illumination EntertainmentΓÇÖs 3D animated family comedy, Despicable Me 2 (2013), and everyone compared its vocals to Curtis MayfieldΓÇÖs. ΓÇ£HappyΓÇ¥ became one of the best-selling singles of all time. Shot in Los Angeles, the ΓÇ£HappyΓÇ¥ music video is 24 hours long and has its own interactive website; 1000s of fans around the world have created YouTube tributes to the project. The Embassy of the United States in Armenia released its own version titled ΓÇ£Happy Yerevan,ΓÇ¥ which featured the US ambassador dancing with various Armenian celebrities. Iranian fans were arrested for their tribute in May 2014. The police chief called their video an act of vulgarity, but President Hassan Rouhani jumped to the defense of ΓÇ£Happy in Tehran,ΓÇ¥ and its participantsΓÇÖ sentences to lashings and jail time were suspended. ΓÇ£HappyΓÇ¥ is a matter of international public diplomacy, and an agent of transnational civil liberty. That makes its author a political leader, voted in through a tally of Google analytics and video hits (472,353,655 and counting on YouTube alone). It is suggestive of a lateral celebrity career move on the level of Ronald Reagan becoming president. This is not an electoral model that makes us ΓÇ£happy.ΓÇ¥
ΓÇ£HappyΓÇ¥ is a song about freedom, and mortality. ΓÇ£Clap along,ΓÇ¥ Pharrell sings, ΓÇ£if you feel like a room without a roof.ΓÇ¥ This is the vocabulary of the most famous and beautiful songs of American Spiritual music, in which the ΓÇ£sweet chariotΓÇ¥ leads to an abundant and peaceful afterlife, and in which ΓÇ£the drinking gourdΓÇ¥ ΓÇô the ΓÇ£Big DipperΓÇ¥ asterism ΓÇô leads slaves towards liberty, via a map found in the stars. PharrellΓÇÖs ΓÇ£roofless room,ΓÇ¥ too, locates sublime and communal and transcendent happiness in the heavens. Either Pharrell is as much a spiritual leader as he is a political one ΓÇô as much prophet as president ΓÇô or he is human embodiment of the international citizenΓÇÖs compulsive inability to separate church, state, and pop. Perhaps he is all three.
In 1939, Georges Bataille wrote an incredible text called ΓÇ£The Practice of Joy Before DeathΓÇ¥; this work also places an augmented and vertiginous kind of ΓÇ£happinessΓÇ¥ ΓÇô ecstasy, maybe ΓÇô before the stars: ΓÇ£The depth of the sky, lost space is joy before death: everything is profoundly cracked.ΓÇ¥
ΓÇ£Only a shameless, indecent saintliness can lead to a sufficiently happy loss of self,ΓÇ¥ Bataille states elsewhere. His ΓÇ£Joy before deathΓÇ¥ is not for prudes ΓÇô ΓÇ£those who would be afraid of nude girls or whiskeyΓÇ¥ ΓÇô and means that ΓÇ£life can be glorified from root to summit. [ΓÇª] It renews the kind of tragic jubilation that man ΓÇÿisΓÇÖ as soon as he stops behaving like a cripple, glorifying necessary work and letting himself be emasculated by the fear of tomorrow.ΓÇ¥ It goes without saying that the stardom that radiates from those small onyx devices that light up our faces from below has little to do with this shameless and indecent saintliness. Being and becoming and giving takes place deeply and overwhelmingly in black, cracked, star-sprinkled space.
Fantasy is often posited as the antithesis of reality, but this is a fallacy. Fantasy is a part of reality ΓÇô perhaps its most vibrant, and certainly its most fun. Without fantasy, the reality we inhabit would not only be grayer; it would not exist at all. Fantasy is not merely a cherry on top of simple intellectual existence; it is integral to the foundations of our culture. It is not a threat to truth, morality, or perception; it is the necessary condition for these things. Fact and fantasy exist in a relationship of such constant and productive reciprocity that it is impossible to say which comes first. Too often ignored, this relationship is the perennial chicken-and-egg question of human existence. However, given the creative power that results from this magical interaction, makes determining which actually came first of little importance. Reality makes us dream, and dreams make us real.
To speak of ΓÇ£chanceΓÇ¥ may seem frivolous to some. Chance is the currency of the superstitious and na├»ve, they might say. To rely on it for even a moment is to renounce your agency to other forces. Yet indeterminist processes have been a part of the most fundamental instances of creation known to us ΓÇô including the birth of our universe as we understand it. It is not chance that is outmoded, rather necessity and determinism. From the subatomic world, to Modernism, to genetics, certainty has been ΓÇ£overΓÇ¥ for a long time. To ask how or why we came to be is to ask the wrong question. Celebrate the happenstance in creation and existence by asking instead, ΓÇ£what next?ΓÇ¥