A False Trade

In my last post I showed architecture being butchered for the sake of making a more commercially viable storefront. The stupidity of this of course is that what you’re destroying is ultimately what you need the money for in the first place – that is, we build wealth so that we can live better lives, and we live better lives through art, among other things. So why would the owner choose money over architecture that enriches the street and elevates the spirit of those passing by?

Ruskin wrote about this in The Stones of Venice. What happens is this: our modern society forces people into jobs where their creative instinct cannot express itself, which leads to people doing work that they do not love. Now, of course there are things we do not enjoy doing but have to do anyway – that’s part of life. But taking a full-time job that you have to suffer through is much worse than doing a few difficult or unpleasant tasks now and again. A job that doesn’t let you express your creativity is destined to be a job that you cannot love, and so your life can no longer be defined by your work, and neither can happiness come from it.

But people have to support themselves, and so they will have to take up work that they may not enjoy for the money that they’ll gain. What happens here is that they can no longer find happiness through their work – so they seek it through money. This is why the poor tend to resent the rich, and why everyone is so concerned today about income inequality. The rich have what they consider to be a means to happiness. I’m not talking about money itself for the sake of money of course, but about what it enables them to do.

But when you love what you do money begins to matter a whole lot less. Yes, you still need it to live, but it’s no longer your source of happiness – your source of happiness and your purpose is your work. Money driven people cannot see art for what it is because they never make it, and this is why we get things like that stupid storefront in my previous post. Their way to happiness is through money, and so they’re all too quick to cut apart beautiful architecture to get to it, never realizing that what they’re doing is ultimately harming themselves.

Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

Sign up to my email newsletter to receive regular recommendations to exceptional books on a wide range of topics including design, art, history and philosophy. A summary of latest site updates will also be included. Sign up below: