Spare Time & Random Thoughts

It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.” -Voltaire

I’ve often told people that this blog is fueled by spare time and random thoughts- at the moment, I have both as I’m laid up recovering from a minor surgery, while at the same time, California is about to get pummeled yet again with some always-needed “winter” weather and I’m forced, quite literally to cease all indoor and outdoor physical activity, which leaves me spare time to kick around such random thoughts.

My random thought is this – why now, more than ever, with all the incredible resources of inspiration we have in our world and at our fingertips, do I feel that there is a societal void in individuality, originality, creativity, style, and personal taste? Speaking specifically of the online world, I find myself increasingly bored and, dare I say, almost insulted by what the socials are serving up to me. Ironically, it has forced me back to old-school, non-digital methods of seeking inspiration and curating beauty in my everyday life. I have pulled out my baskets of shelter magazines that date back 20 years, picked up my dusty coffee table book collections, and searched for my folders of pre-Pinterest inspo clippings that range from postcards to restaurant matchbooks to magazine clippings and polaroids- all images or items that at one time or another were curated and saved because they sparked creativity, joy, and ultimately contributed to my evolution of overall signature style.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled upon an interview with the author Kyle Chayka on The Ezra Klein Show discussing our current malaise surrounding personal taste and style and the true meaning of curation. In his book Filterworld, the New York Times columnist explains his theory surrounding this phenomenon of how living in an online, algorithmic world has changed culture, and “what happens when it collides with the homogenizing digital reality in which we live?” This theory was precisely my “random” frustrating thought du jour

are the internet and its algorithms systematically destroying free thinking and personal taste, hindering us from curating our own sense of style, aesthetics, and beauty in our world?

The Ezra Klein interview dives deep into asking quasi-existential questions such as, “What is personal taste and style, and how does one develop a sense of what their individual aesthetic is all about?” Quite simply, internet algorithms have changed culture by flattening it and curating it for us instead of for ourselves. Developing one’s sense of style and taste requires a certain amount of exposure and experience, but I couldn’t agree more with Chayka that style and taste don’t equate to having money, social status, or even higher education. “Good taste” doesn’t come from designer labels, Ivy League schools, a love of Woody Allen movies, working knowledge of Shostakovich, or the Broadway classics. It does not hinge on your annual Instagram post from Gatsby’s Gold Coast, sitting portside on a yacht in Ibiza, posing in Gstaad, or being dressed for the Met Gala, but a profound and innate sense of knowing what you like and then being able to look outside of your world to find it and bring it into your vision and everyday experience to give you a sense of beauty and peacefulness.

I like to fill my house with flowers, especially when no one is coming over. Whether it’s a single daffodil plucked from the dirt in my front yard or an armful of blooms from Trader Joe’s, flowers bring me joy, and having them in my space is essential to create some sort of environmental calmness that I crave. I also covet pretty glassware, pressed monogrammed napkins, patterned throw pillows, long cotton dresses, and simple cosmetics. I love depressing singer-songwriter playlists, a signature charcuterie board, and wine that falls into two categories- imported and not expensive. I’ve been told these are hallmarks of my “signature style”, which I have thoughtfully honed over the years by experimenting with what I love, what speaks to me, and what brings me joy. Chayka explains, “It (personal taste) feels like being able to be attuned enough inside yourself to know what you really like, not just what you’re being fed, being attentive enough to the world around you to see things that are really yours, not just everybody else’s — it feels like an important way to live.” I am no stranger to being “influenced”, but as I’ve grown older, I’m pretty astute at rejecting online what does not align with my style, taste, and ethos, and find myself gravitating back to a more old school, organic method of curating and creating an ever-evolving sense of style.

In the past six months or so, I’ve discussed with a number of friends (and have seen confirmed by comments on forums I’ve read online) a growing desire to consume and curate content in a more old-school manner. People miss blogs, photo sites, essays, short stories, and thoughtfully crafted material in contrast to the spoon-fed, mindless, “you’re going to love this” algorithm of the internet. I used to follow so many beautiful blogs that seem to have gone by the wayside because they decided to shelve their writing or content curation because of the monetization that has taken over the space. “If you’re not monetizing your material, what’s the point of creating?” The process of creating is the purpose of expressing, thinking, and collecting words, ideas, images, and whatever lights you up. Creative content seems lost in the ether unless you go on the hunt for it. Ezra Klein said it perfectly, “There’s a satisfaction in discovering your own taste and the things you like and the things that connect. I mean, it’s fun. It’s one of the few adventures left on the internet.” Or anywhere else, for that matter. Then there’s Substack…if I paid $5 per month (per blog!) to read every newsletter I wanted to, I would have an outlandish bill that would infuriate me, negating the reason for seeking the creative content in the first place. I understand the need and desire for commerce in the space, but when creativity becomes monetized, it also loses a lot of its authenticity and purpose.

I acknowledge I am in a fortunate position to freely use my creativity however I want, without the need for monetization. That freedom has allowed me to veer in any direction that strikes my fancy- I’m not beholden to “followers” or “subscribers” who demand and desire a continuous flow of products and information that don’t always carry intention, thought, and purpose- which is to spark creative joy for myself that may resonate with others, especially those random thoughts that are powered by my luxury of spare time.



The Mom Mystique

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