A LOVE SUPREME

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Corporate Glory

The Corporation was founded to produce the Product and service the Customer. It was young and hungry. It's founders were visionaries - energetic and eager to make a difference in the market of Products. And so the Corporation produced the best Product, and worked hard to market, price, and distribute the Product such that it was embraced by the marketplace.

The Corporation existed for the sake of the Product.

At some point along the way, and we truly do not know when, something of a reversal happened. The Corporation gained momentum and developed a synergy all its own. The original founders, visionaries in their own right, no longer had the necessary vision or leadership to guide the new and emerging entity. The Corporation became greater than the sum of its parts. As we said, at some point a reversal has taken place.

The Product now exists for the sake of the Corporation.

The above statement is clearly seen even in the development of the catch-phrases used in the marketing and advertising departments. Products are now called "cash cow" or "loss leader", all indicating their distinct place in serving the missions, values, goals, and telos of the Corporation. Corporate synergy is at work, and who is really in control?

Image and symbol is now the greater good. The terms "damage control" and "Corporate image" have now taken something of a sacred connotation. Corporate perception proceeds essence. That is, we are no longer what we are, rather, we are what you think we are. The latter is the necessary focus of our concentration.

The above is something of a parable in our consumer/corporate-driven society. And yet, ironically, one might apply this parable to the American church. The local church once existed to glorify and serve God. Yet at some point, and we know not when, God now exists to serve and glorify the church. Image and symbol trump essence and action. Corporate synergy is at work. And who is really in control?

66 comments:

Melody said...

Good post.

Yet at some point, and we know not when, God now exists to serve and glorify the church.

I hope not...but I can see where that does happen.

When I was a kid it really frustrated me that the church was not...mmm, more like it is...realy slick and, well, cool.

I love targeted markets and product placement. Really good marketing makes me giddy.

But as I got older it just seemed to be more and more clear that the many things I find exciting, fun, and hey, valuable, in a business, wildly miss the point for a church.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yeah, I don't mean this to be a negative critique of corporations or even of corporate-style churches. There is certainly a "cool-factor" there. I mean simply to do something in the line of a deconstructive approach to analyze whether or not the strengths of a corporation also carry with them the seeds of their own undoing.

Another interesting corporate word to analyze: Professional

We have "professional" or "unprofessional" behavior. These terms carry their own moral connotations in the Corporate world. To act unprofessionally would be the contemporary equivolent of profaning religious sacraments or desecrating the temple. However, these terms were developed and defined in such a way as to regulate corporate behavior in such a way as to be a benefit. To benefit whom? Well, the Corporation, of course.

Melody said...

I mean simply to do something in the line of a deconstructive approach to analyze whether or not the strengths of a corporation also carry with them the seeds of their own undoing.

Mmkay...like how? I can think of sort of general examples of how that would happen (an easy going boss is nice...but if they're too easy going nothing gets done), but I don't know if you're thinking of something else.

On the word professional... it tends to mean being apropriate for your job setting.

If I pay someone to greet customers at my store and they slink off to have a smoke, they are no longer doing their job...unprofessional.

If I'm paid greet customers with a smile and I tell them my life story instead, not doing my job, unprofessional.

If you're trying to make a sale to high-level power suited execs and you show up in a t-shirt & jeans you obviously don't care about them as clients, unprofessional.

I'm so glad I work somewhere that lets me wear jeans every day. I hate office-wears...even writing that last paragraph made me feel uncomfortable...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Good thought about "professional" being suited to the nature of the job/task and job performance. So, in this sense being professional or unprofessional is kind-of self-evident, at least from your cited examples. Yet the un/professional language still serves the Corporation, and such language is, in most cases, manipulated to serve Corporate ends. Some regulations are self-evident, others are not. And on top of all that I would add that the Corporation generates this mysterious synergy and sometimes no one really knows how regulations or proceedures or "professional guidelines" get put into play. They just kind of happen and emerge from the dynamic (or undynamic) interplay.

Melody said...

I've worked almost exclusively for small companies, so I guess I really haven't seen that aspect of it.

Jonathan Erdman said...

To quote approximately eighteen hundred emails in my spam folder:
Size matters

I really think this is true for businesses that grow larger and larger. I spent a few years at larger Corporations and definitely noticed something: The larger the Corporation the greater the presence of an intangible non-personal force that cannot be boiled down to any particular person or even groups of people. And the Corporation I worked for wasn't even close to approximating a Fortune 500 company.

ktismatics said...

I'd rather have the product exist for the sake of the company than vice versa -- as long as the company refers to the workers and not the stockholders. "Cash cow" and "loss leader" point out this distortion in favor of capital over workers.

People joining forces to create and distribute something they value would be my idea of a good company, not one that maximizes shareholder profit. If the workers create the product then find themselves working for their own creation, that's an inversion, don't you think?

So in your parable God is the Product of the church? That's what a lot of non-church people are afraid of, wouldn't you say?

Jason Hesiak said...

How did I miss this post earlier?!

Anyway...

"I love targeted markets and product placement. Really good marketing makes me giddy...But as I got older it just seemed to be more and more clear that the many things I find exciting, fun, and hey, valuable, in a business, wildly miss the point for a church." Why and how on earth would they be two differnt things? How is that just?

http://jasonhesiak.blogspot.com/2007/06/chasing-phantoms-and-living-in-reality_08.html

On the other hand...for fun...I shall toss a wrench in this operation...

"'Corporate image' have now taken something of a sacred connotation. Corporate perception proceeds essence."

What is an essence but an "eidos", eerrr...and "idea"/"image." What is the "essence" of man but his "image" in which he is made?

Melody said...

Jason, I don't understand what you're asking.

What are we talking about being different and why are we talking about justice?

Ktismatics:If the workers create the product then find themselves working for their own creation, that's an inversion, don't you think?

I'm wondering how working for your creation is different from people working to create and distribute something they value.

Jonathan Erdman said...

K:
I'd rather have the product exist for the sake of the company than vice versa -- as long as the company refers to the workers and not the stockholders. "Cash cow" and "loss leader" point out this distortion in favor of capital over workers.

People joining forces to create and distribute something they value would be my idea of a good company, not one that maximizes shareholder profit.


The problem is that workers need capital in order to produce. Hence workers need stock/shareholders, and shareholders demand that profits be maximized, or they will withdraw their capital and invest it in companies that will provide a healthier return on their investment. In this market environment it is theoretically impossible to build a corporation around one's workers because eventually the two goals (profit vs. workers) will come into conflict, and if the corporation favors the worker over the profit the shareholders bail and the company folds and the workers are SOL.

What my post did not mention is the Google.com phenomenon. Here you have two idealistic mavericks out of Stanford who developed a corporate model that revolves around the workers and the production of a valuable product. Profit maximization seems to be the least of their concerns. I consider this to be an anomaly and an accident.

Jonathan Erdman said...

"'Corporate image' have now taken something of a sacred connotation. Corporate perception proceeds essence."

What is an essence but an "eidos", eerrr...and "idea"/"image." What is the "essence" of man but his "image" in which he is made?


Good point, Jason. Good point.

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody, you said: "Jason, I don't understand what you're asking. What are we talking about being different and why are we talking about justice?"

Thanks for asking. Let me be clear, then about the difference I' talking about. You had said: "I love targeted markets and product placement. Really good marketing makes me giddy. But as I got older it just seemed to be more and more clear that the many things I find exciting, fun, and hey, valuable, in a business, wildly miss the point for a church."

So I'm talking about the difference between what makes you giddy and what "the point" is for a church. If the church is supposed to be a model and blessing to the world...but/yet its members are giddy over the world's model for how things are to work...then how is that consistent...or...how is that supposed to work in God's plan?

And...how is that supposed to work in God's plan...for justice? That the church be a model, a light and a blessing to the world is part of God's plan for justice. But if its members are giddy about the unjust ways of the world, then how is God's justice supposed to be carried out?

That was what I meant by "different" and "justice." But if you read the link I provided...you will see that its not entirely or necessarily an "objective" issue of some objective/univerally-true notion of what is right or just that I am dealing with. In my link you will see that I regard "the way the world works"...in terms of its niche marketing and product placement...as a personal sleight against me and the gifts that I have to offer to the world. In other words..."marketing" makes ME personally feel alienated and worthless...and angry and bitter and resentful. Just to be honest and frank with where I'm at, so you aren't wondering where on earth I'm coming from.

Despite my personal coloring on the issue, however, Plato did talk about justice and the properly ordered distribution of the parts or roles of the city's functions. If the business/marketing side has become too overwhelmingly powerful, then...then that's not just...even just in terms of what I mean when I say that I regard "marketing" as a personal vendetta against me.

How does that relate to Plato? My point is that I regard "the world" and its marketing ways as "against me," precisely because the power of marketing and business is overwhelmingly large and totalitarian. There's no room for anything else.

In Plato's notion of justice, that would be like saying that Sparta was the Ideal Republic, in which the courageous rulers have all the say in how things go...rather than the city's functioning belonging...in due order and relatioship...to the wisdom of the philosopher king, the courage of the warrior, and the temperance of the workers.

Blessings,

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

And Johnathan,

Thanks, dude. On another note, I was being a bit goofy. Obviously, its not a question of whether an image is the essence of the coorporation, but what that image looks like. Or...eeerrr...what it looks like to whom. McDonalds might look real shiny to some folks, but realy nast to others...and what about the important audience...God?

:)

Jason

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics:
So in your parable God is the Product of the church? That's what a lot of non-church people are afraid of, wouldn't you say?

That's what a lot of church people are afraid of, as well. However, is it unavoidable. In a consumer-driven culture that has been operating on market economics for the last few hundred years can we think of God/church in any other way? Emerging church types resist the God-as-product approach to church. However, they are starting to write books, blog, hold conferences/seminars, and distribute other merchandise. This is going on with vigor! The result is that emerging types are using the very system they purport to be against. They are using traditional marketing outlets of distribution.

Melody said...

Jason: "If the church is supposed to be a model and blessing to the world...but/yet its members are giddy over the world's model for how things are to work...then how is that consistent...or...how is that supposed to work in God's plan?"

Jason, Jason, Jason...the fact that I feel giddy over marketing does not make me less able to be in love with the work of God.

Rather, it is simply important to recognize that just because something is good in one context does not mean it is right in another.

Sex is good, in marriage. The farther outside that context you take it the more distorted and horrible it becomes.

Laughter is beautiful, when it comes from a joyous occassion, but terrible when it comes at the expense of others.

Context is everything.

Marketing is good in business. Competition is good in basketball.
Yodeling is good in Switzerland.

None of these is good in church, but a member of the church could be excited about any one of these in the right context (yes, even yodeling)

I don't know what to say about your thinking marketing is unjust.

I can only assume that you don't understand what marketing is.

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,

"I don't know what to say about your thinking marketing is unjust. I can only assume that you don't understand what marketing is."

Smooth maneuver, but like grasping for wind. "All advertising advertises advertising" -Marshall McLuhan (the originator of the term "mass media" - did you know that?). So then advertising is a bit narcissistic, eh? And besided, I explained what I meant by "unjust." I'm not saying that all advertising/marketying of any sort is, was, has been or will be unjust. I'm saying that the overwhelmingly totalized role of the power of marketing and/or marketers is - in the context of our now - unjust.

And in consideration of what you said on the topic...what is your reasoning for marketing being appropriate on the outside but not the inside of the church?

My question is, Does "the fact that [you] feel giddy over marketing does not make [you] less able to be in love with the work of God" while you are not at church?

Jason

Melody said...

"I'm saying that the overwhelmingly totalized role of the power of marketing and/or marketers is - in the context of our now - unjust."

Right, and I think you must not understand marketing.

Marketers are bound by their customers. Marketers must know their customers and understand their feelings, wants, and needs.

For example, recent trends show companies like coke and pepsi scrambling to jump on board the health food wagon. Customers are clamoring, "We want a healthy drink! We want a drink with vitamins and natural, unprocessed sweetners" and the horrified excutives are sobbing into their coat sleeves, "But we gave you diet cola!"

This was unforseen and unwanted by the cola companies. High Fructose Corn Syrup based drinks have a much higher profit margin than any other drink available aside from water and water is not nearly as addictive.

Does this look like power to you?

No, marketing is the ability of a company to accurately anticipate and deftly respond to the wants, needs, and whims of their target audience.

Your last question was rather insulting. I think you just called me a Sunday Morning Christian, wontanly and without proof or provocation.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

Good points. Browsing through marketing/advertising textbooks reinforces your point about marketing being a response to the consumer. Responsiveness to market forces is the first rule of capitalism, and no less of a real force in our culture. But is it the full story????

Melody says...
Marketers are bound by their customers. Marketers must know their customers and understand their feelings, wants, and needs.

I think I'm going to disagree a bit and suggest that customers are also bound to their companies. Once a corporation builds in consumer loyalty they've got us for a while and it takes a lot to make us angry.

But as a media person you can anticipate my deeper disagreement with the concept that marketers are bound to their customers. Five words: The Power of the Image.

Marketing/advertising does not just respond to demand, it creates demand. It does this via the most artistic media. Who, after all, needs to spend $70 on a pair of shorts? Answer: nobody. But we do. Abercrombie uses the power of the image to hook us into a matrix of meaning.

What do you think??? In your advertising experience aren't you both responding to and creating demand???

Jason Hesiak said...

"Your last question was rather insulting. I think you just called me a Sunday Morning Christian, wontanly and without proof or provocation."

No, I was actually asking a genuine question in hopes of hearing your answer, which you did not give. Sorry for the miscommunication. I know from Johnathan that he hangs out with a group of singles, including you, who are interested in more than Sunday morning Christianity. Hence my question.

So far as your good poingt about the whims of the consumers go...the MARKET is still king. That's the whole point of what you are saying. It isn't called MARKETing for nothing. I do understand what it is you are saying that I do not understand.

Like The Erdmanian said: "Responsiveness to market forces is the first rule of capitalism, and no less of a real force in our culture." I think what the Erdmanian said is also pertinent and important: "Marketing/advertising does not just respond to demand, it creates demand. It does this via the most artistic media." I don't think you have to put those two in tension, however, to say that one represents a satement that says that the market is an unjust king and the other does not. The market is some invisible and impersonal forces that is constituted by both the consumers' desires as well as, now, the marketer's creations of unnecessary desires.

Blessings,

Jason

Jonathan Erdman said...

But, Jason, Don't you think it is an important question to ask, in terms of which force is greater:
1 - The customer demand or
2 - The creation of demand by Corporate marketing

Or maybe you are suggesting that one can't know which is greater?

If the demand of the customer is greater than the force of Corporate marketing, then things seem a bit more "right," somehow....however, if we are all just at the mercy of Corporate marketing then I think you might have a case for injustice or at least a lack of proportion.

Jason Hesiak said...

I do think its an important question to ask. That's why I like your post. I just don't really think there's an answer. Nor, even, do I necessarily think that its important to ask the question with the goal of coming up with an answer. I thik that the question itself paints the picture of a reality in which we live.

So I guess I'm saying that you can't really know which is greater. I guess that actually seems kind of obvious. If you were to study consumer purchases, for example, how would you even know whether the findings were so because of "consumer demand" or because of the marketer's "creation" of demand? I think all we can really know is that the market, by definition, caters to the consumer; and yet we can observe the obvious phenomenon of the market's creation of desires for the consumer.

Additionally... you said: "If the demand of the customer is greater than the force of Corporate marketing, then things seem a bit more 'right,' somehow....however, if we are all just at the mercy of Corporate marketing then I think you might have a case for injustice or at least a lack of proportion."

I would say that even if the demand of the customer could be definitively determined to be more powerful than the creation of demand by the marketers, then you could still find yourself in an unjust world. Example: I just saw Hostel II. Its about a whole big market created around the "product" of sexy young person torturing and killing. Its kind of a rediculous example, but it serves my point.

For one, are sexy young people getting killed and tortured because the "product" is being offered, or because there are rich powerful people who would want to do such a thing and would "bid" on it? Not the best example for that question, because the "image" isn't being publically displayed as an "object of desire" to be competed for. Although actually, exactly that is occuring within a small circle of rich "members" of a particular club.

However, even though the "image" of the product is displayed and competed over among those rich folk...lets just pretend for a moment that we can definitively say in that instance that sexy young people are being tortured and killed primarily becuase there are rich and powerful people who would want to do such a thing. Is any market any different? The world we live in could be said to be determined by such morally off desires. Whether people want $70 shorts because the shorts are presented to them or because people want to "look" better than folks with $20 dollar shorts makes no difference, if you ask me. Either way, we live in a world that is "moved" by the "standard"/"torch bearer" of the rediculousness of the $70 dollar shorts. At least that's my take.

Blessings,

Jason

Melody said...

Jon: "customers are also bound to their companies. Once a corporation builds in consumer loyalty they've got us for a while and it takes a lot to make us angry."

Indeed, but they have to make a product that is worthy of that kind of loyalty.

It is also increasingly harder to create that kind of loyalty.
So many options, so many different wants/needs to be fulfilled.

Once upon a time you bought a ford because your daddy bought a ford and his dad before that. It was the only reason you needed.

That's loyalty you can't buy, and it's one of the most valuable kinds to companies because it is associative and completely emotional (and it doesn't cost anything!)

But again, with so many options, people try out many different brands while they're trying to figure out their consumer idenity and it is becoming increasingly important to create a product so good that your customers never even turn their heads when that Chevy commercial comes on.

I would argue that a company does not even need to make us angry anymore. We're so fast paced, we may not be angry, we may just be bored and switch to something else.

"Five words: The Power of the Image."

Image is key. It's such a precarious thing though and you can't ride on it or you risk becoming a has been.

Levi, Nike, and Adidas were once staples. Must haves. They're not anymore. Don't get me wrong, they're still big companies. They're not likely to go under any time soon, but their image was not flexible enough or young enough or...whatever. They missed something and it is hurting them.

Jon: "What do you think??? In your advertising experience aren't you both responding to and creating demand???"

Absolutely. I'm not saying that demand is never created, but it is still very dependant upon the market.

The first great slogan was from Kodak's camera company, "You push the button, we do the rest"

I love that slogan. It's beautiful.

Anyway. Up until that point only people with dark rooms were able to be photographers. It involved a lot of chemicals and was quite tedious (so is the modern dark room, to me it is a miracle that there were ever any photographers at all).

Mr. Eastman created an entire market, amature photographers. He made photography easy and afordable, and I hope God blesses him for it.

Jon: "Who, after all, needs to spend $70 on a pair of shorts? Answer: nobody. But we do. Abercrombie uses the power of the image to hook us into a matrix of meaning."

Speak for yourself, I haven't got 70 for a blasted pair of shorts. I would also like to note, that yes, A&F has created this image and a lot of people want it, but they have to live with that image. There are also a lot of people who don't want that image or are repulsed by it.

Not only do they have to create an image, they have to convince people that they want that image. Because at the end of the day you can have all the image you want, but if you haven't made the exchange...worthless.

Jason, no my love of marketing does not hinder my love of God, regaurdless of the scenario.

I can love marketing while I'm in church, just not as the focal point of church. Just as I can appreciate a nice pair of shoes at lunch, but not as the meal.

Jason: "I do understand what it is you are saying that I do not understand."

Your use of the english language is incredibly confusing. I do not understand what it is that you are saying.

Of course the market is still king. That's you and me friend. We vote with our bank-accounts every day on what it is that we hold most dear.

"one represents a satement that says that the market is an unjust king and the other does not."

Are we lemmings or automatons? The entire point of capitalism is that you cannot force something on the public against their will.

Granted, we do have monopoly laws for a reason. Companies could gain too much power. And I am absolutely against government subsidies which create false markets, but at that point you've strayed from marketing on to something else entirely.

Jason Hesiak said...

"I can love marketing while I'm in church, just not as the focal point of church. Just as I can appreciate a nice pair of shoes at lunch, but not as the meal."

Back to my original question, then: "So I'm talking about the difference between what makes you giddy and what 'the point' is for a church. If the church is supposed to be a model and blessing to the world...but/yet its members are giddy over the world's model for how things are to work...then how is that consistent...or...how is that supposed to work in God's plan?"

The shoes are clearly the focal point in the marketing of the world. And then the church models itself after the world, trying to turn God into a product. So then it becomes a bit less relevant whether or not we pay much attention to the shoes while we're at church, if the whole aim of church is to turn God into a product to be consumed. That whacked out. That's my point. My question, then, is: if you love God, and don't want Him to be a product to be consumed (but rather want Him to consume your heart, so to speak, which I'm assuming to be the case!), then how is marketing justifiably allowed to have the role that it currently does both in the world and in the church. Seeing as how its role in the world is the chuch's model...and so its role in the world is its role in the world and in the church.

"Of course the market is still king. That's you and me friend. We vote with our bank-accounts every day on what it is that we hold most dear."

Back to what I was saying about God consuming us rather than the other way around, then: that's my whole point.

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,

To add to what I said previuosly...

"Jason: 'I do understand what it is you are saying that I do not understand.' Your use of the english language is incredibly confusing. I do not understand what it is that you are saying."

You were saying that I don't understand the basic definition or role of marketing. I was saying that I do.

Jason

Melody said...

Jason, you're setting up your question as if satan introduced marketing to ensnare the world. I can't answer that question because I don't agree with your premise.

Marketing is an attempt to sell a product in the most efficient and profitable way possible.

The church is a gathering of the saints in order to fellowship and exhort one another to good works.

Where is the problem? I agree, Jason, that if or when the church would begin to treat itself as a corporation rather than the bride of Christ that this would be wrong.

I'll go one step further, if we are modeling a company rather than Christ we forfit our right to call ourselves the church.

But, as I continue to state and you continue to you ignore, an appreciation for marketing, in it's proper context, does not - cannot - interfere with the work of the church.

Do you think God is bothered by the fact that I walk into the hair care isle and think, "Wow, that's a nice re-branding strategy, I think I'll try that product out"?

Would this thought somehow interfear with my love of God? Would it keep me from glorifying His name? Does my enjoyment of an advertising campaign make me treat others wrongly? Does it cause me to neglect the poor?

Help me out here Jason, because I'm not seeing the connection.

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,

Good questions.

"Do you think God is bothered by the fact that I walk into the hair care isle and think, 'Wow, that's a nice re-branding strategy, I think I'll try that product out'?"

No, I think he's tickled pink with you, no matter what. And I think you have some business sense, which I generally don't really have, so far as I know (unless the problem is contemporary business rather than myself, but I really don't know about that...or maybe the problem is specialization...whatever...my point is...I dunno). And I also think you love business, because it is your livlihood and your gift; whereas I hate businss, because it is my enemy that frustrates all of my attempts at meaningfull art and/or architecture. Its been a tension since at least the 14th century in western culture.

"Would this thought somehow interfear with my love of God?"

My take on that ist that I have no power to judge that. That's not really what I'm talking about. I'm SORT OF questioning it, but that's not the central thrust of what I'm saying...precisely because I have no power to judge it. And because I actually trust and believe that you are seeking God how you best know how. I am doing the same. Welcome to the club.

"Would it keep me from glorifying His name? Does my enjoyment of an advertising campaign make me treat others wrongly? Does it cause me to neglect the poor?"

This I have a bit of a more concrete grasp of, I believe. I'm telling you that I - me, personally - feel badly treated by marketers, in general. AND, I'm telling you that when I identify "myself" as "me, personally," I am referring to myslef NOT as a CONSUMER, but as an ARCHITECT.

As part of what I mean by that, I do believe that marketing, and the American way of life that goes with it for which we are fighting this stupid and unjust war, does not glorify God's name. Although I do believe that the wisdom that would mean good business, when business plays its proper role in the world rather than is the RULER of the world, would glorify God's name. As it is now, however, in regards to the question of a way of life, "business" is just "busy-ness."

To explain more of what I mean when I say that I feel that marketing treats "me" badly, I will do some cutting and pasting from something I was explaining to a fellow blogger, who is a Baptist Pastor and a strong believer in the free market:

"For me the issue is about FORM, and formATION...in all of the plastic arts, as well as in music. For me all of those things point back to the Genesis story of the FORMation of...well, everything. This is a question of the 'image' of God and of man, and the relation between them. To me, if a work of art does not do a good job of TRULY reflecting those images, then its crappy art. And I can't think of a whole heck of a lot of good contemporary art I've seen in...a long, long, long time."

[side note...I'd say the reason why I haven't seen any good arte in a long time, is because everyone's idea of artifact, image and "art" is so colored by marketing. and i will explain why that's bad for art in a moment..to explain the connection between marketing and what I'm about to copy/paste...marketing is political action, with political implications...again, hence this war]

"I would agree. I would say that the philosophy is inherently political, and that only the best art transcends temporal political statements...especially after the Reformation. Of course that's probably not even completely possible, but I'm talking about the primary target of the message, the 'bulls eye' of the arrow of the 'yarah' that is so related to the 'torah.' The 'yarah' (hebrew word for the archer's arrow/his shooting of that arrow) of the 'torah' should aim at the TRUTH of the human 'heart.' And, of course, in the context of talking about 'torah,' 'heart' means something different from the emotional goofiness of the contemporary meaning of the term...

You said: 'Now here is the rub. I began to see that their reactive aversion to the 'pop' arts was often rooted in their hatred for the free market and Christianity. I well remember the snide remarks offered in art classes about how medieval artists prostituted themselves to the 'church' or to the 'moneyed class'; but, that we need not do that any more—unless, of course—one becomes a pop artist. Fellow art students noted that now we have NEA and other governmental agencies to support the 'arts' so that 'true' artists don’t have to 'whore' themselves to the market.'

When you say 'now here's the rub,' and then go on to say the rest, you seem to be assuming that I identify with the kinds of folks that you go on to describe. Now, I'm about to make another one of those statements that is contrary to your thinking of where I'm at...in order to explain that I'm somewhere other than where you think I am. I hope that you will listen...please. At the least, please accept what I'm about to say, for what its worth. Who know, maybe I'll turn out not to know myself as well as I think I do, and in the future my opinion on the statement I'm about to make will change. But for now, please take what I'm about to say as such.

The statement that I have to make, then, is as follows. I do not identify myself with the liberal minded artistic community of which you speak. Considering what you know about me, then, that's obviously a bit of a complicated statement. I do consider CONTEMPORARY marketing to be in my way, but I do not consider it 'the enemy.' For example, lets say that I was myself a marketer. Lets say that I was working in a big marketing company and Nike was one of our clients. Lets say that I was the head of the project trying to come up with a marketing pitch, or trying to write an advertisement, or trying to figure out how best to visually represent the whole darn thing. I'm not trying to in this conversation write the commercial or do the graphics.

My only point here is that, obviously, the 'target' of the 'yarah' is 'Nike' shoes, probably even some particular model of shoe. You could take the proposed commercial in question to itself be a kind of 'torah,' a speaking of a 'word.' As I said above, 'The 'yarah' (hebrew word for the archer's arrow/his shooting of that arrow) of the 'torah' should aim at the TRUTH of the human 'heart.'' If I myself were in such a situation, then, of trying to do such a commercial, I would obviously have a problem.

Additionally, the folks you describe tend to think of the artists of midievaldom as having 'whored' themselves, not to 'the market,' but to 'the church' or to the 'moneyed class,' as you noted. I very much do not idenfify myself with such thinking. For one thing, as I've said, I have no problem with hierarchical structures as such; we've talked about that. For another thing, I think that such 'liberal mindedness,' in this case, is just plain dumb and wrong. Its one thing to even TRY to apply such thinking to a Rapheal portrait of some rich cardinal, but its another thing entirely to try to apply such thinking to Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity! I would consider NEITHER as 'prostitution.'

I would, however, be less inclined to identify with Raphael in that instance, and more inclined to take up the position of Michelangelo, who - it is well known - DID NOT DO PORTRAITS. Its it known that Michelangelo 'pissed off' some pretty powerful people because of his 'personal' rule against doing portraits. Now, 'here's the rub.' The REASON why Michelangelo did not do portraits, is because he was more interested in eternal FORMS that would transcend contemporary politics and such things that would soon be forgotten (hence my many references to Ecclesiastes!). For example, he did the Medici tomb inside a Medici sacristy...and when he was done with a 'portrait' of the Medici in question, on of his assistants said to him, 'But...that doesn't look like antying like the Medici in question.' Michelangelo's response? 'No one will remember what the Medici in question looked like five hundred years from now.'

So, then, I have the same fundamental problem with most all 'pop' art today...including the crap that these 'liberals' produce...such as the PHOTOGRAPH 'Piss Christ', which won't even last 500 years...unless it becomes sacred and treasured and is evnetually preserved like some sacred relic...which would not surprise me one bit.

A 'photograph,' by the way...in general...is entirely different from an 'icon.' A photograph is meant to be an accurate representation, like a scientific theory based on accurate empirical evidence. An icon, however, is meant to 'point beyond.' I am cocerned with iconography, and not photography."

So...you can see that above I sort of answered your following statement: "Jason, you're setting up your question as if satan introduced marketing to ensnare the world. I can't answer that question because I don't agree with your premise."

I actually think that, sort of and to a degree. As did Marshall McLuhan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan

Additionally: "Where is the problem? I agree, Jason, that if or when the church would begin to treat itself as a corporation rather than the bride of Christ that this would be wrong."

The problem is, this has already happened! AND, it's been happening for some time.

"I'll go one step further, if we are modeling a company rather than Christ we forfit our right to call ourselves the church."

Well, you said that, not me. There are folks in the last century - in the West - who have said that the church was dead. That just gets me thinking. I'm not sure if, or how, I agree. But I see what they mean; and I hope God does something. But I'm afraid it will get worse before getting better.

Blessings,

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

"I actually think that, sort of and to a degree. As did Marshall McLuhan."

Oops...I do think "that" Satan set up "marketing" to ensare us all. But not exactly. More precisely, I think that "our" genearl WAY OF LIFE, which is RULED by THE MARKET(ing) is Satan's contemporary princedom. When I say "our" there, I am referring to our Western way of life, and especially or primarily our particularly American way of life. This is very similar to McLuhan's position.

Jason Hesiak said...

Also, on a bit of a different note:

"'Wow, that's a nice re-branding strategy, I think I'll try that product out'?"

I think that in itself is kind of dumb reasoning. But its exactly the reasoning that the marketers want to induce. The re-branding strategy has nothing to do with the quality of the product. In fact, lots of times these days, becasue of marketing, its near impossible to figure out the acutal quality of a product. I think, then, that the marketers in general contribute greatly to the "emptiness" of our current "way of life." When I say "emptiness" there I refer to Proverbs.

Additionally...regarding "branding." That's the "image" thing that Johnathan and I were talking about. I'm a bit offended that the world operates by my being "branded" like a damn cow. Its not just the product that gets branded; although that's what the marketing and/or business textbooks would like us to think. When I wear a particular "brand" of clothing, then I - my identity, my image - is "branded."

Melody said...

lol, are you done now or would you like the publish a book. I printed out your long post, it took two and a half pages, two columns each (although I did acidentally print it in Arial Black so that accounts for some of it).

I'll read it later.

On the "re-branding" thing...I love a good re-branding.

There were three good haircare rebrandings this year and I was thrilled. And yes, I bought a product from each of those lines and no, the rebranding did not make the product any better or worse, but it did make me want to try it.

Now, if they were going to keep my business they would need a better product...they tried, bless their little hearts, but they didn't actually deliver, so I haven't bought it since.

But, let's say someone had a stellar product, but I never noticed it sitting on the shelf? Well they're not even giving themselves a chance.

If a company cares about my money they're not going to just make a great product, they're going to make me notice that product as well. And the more competition they have the harder they're going to have to work, but if they really care about me, the customer, they're going spend those advertising dollars to let me know how great that product is.

On the other hand, if there's no one else in your market and you have a good product, word of mouth is probably enough. Organic, sugar-free cookies for example...all they have to do is put those things on the shelf, I will try every kind available to me, adverising or no. Some things are too important to leave to chance ;)

And as for you being branded, you bloody choose how you're going to be branded. You aren't a cow so you choose. I choose. I decide if I am a Kohl's girl (no I am not, they make cheap crap) or a Target girl (Yes, I am, every day of the week). It's up to those companies to make me like them.

Jason Hesiak said...

"But, let's say someone had a stellar product, but I never noticed it sitting on the shelf? Well they're not even giving themselves a chance. If a company cares about my money they're not going to just make a great product, they're going to make me notice that product as well. And the more competition they have the harder they're going to have to work, but if they really care about me, the customer, they're going spend those advertising dollars to let me know how great that product is."

This is why my problem is not with marketing, per se, but with the whole of the "social machine" itself (a term from the Enlightenment...related to Newton's "Clockwork Universe"), or the money machine. Of course the product, in order to confirm its own existence (which is usually the goal of the maker of any crafted image or product or artifact), must market itself...now, in our social machine...since that's just the way it "works" in said machine.

"And as for you being branded, you bloody choose how you're going to be branded. You aren't a cow so you choose. I choose. I decide if I am a Kohl's girl (no I am not, they make cheap crap) or a Target girl (Yes, I am, every day of the week). It's up to those companies to make me like them."

I do choose HOW I will be branded, but that's like the cow saying: "No, I'd rather have that neat-looking big smoking red hot iron thing with a swirly design on it impressed upon my side, leaving a mark for the rest of my life, as opposed to the same thing except less neato looking. Despite the neato-ness of the one I prefer, however, I will still 'mooo' loudly whenever you decide to burn my flesh with it."

The difference between you and me is, I want my the "Target" of God's "Torah/Yarah" to be my "heart," whereas you "are a Target girl...every day of the week." So then I moo, whereas you don't. Actually, I probably misstated it. You're content with two "Targets." Or unaware of the fact that the two "Targets" are in competition. Or...maybe...we just disagree on whether it is in fact two separate targets rather than two that can be reconciled under the supreme authority of the "target" of God's Word aimed at our heart. Whatever; I'm not sure how best to say it. But I'm not trying to attack or judge you. Just trying to discuss marketing.

Blessings,

Jason

Melody said...

Marketing has been in existance for as long as anyone has tried to convince anyone else to use their product or service.

Yes, there is more of an emphasis on it now, but as long as anyone has ever tried to sell anything...it's been there. You cannot have business or trade without marketing.

Well we don't get to choose some things Jason. We don't get to say, "No, today I'd rather breath hydrogen-peroxide instead of air"
it can't happen.

In the catagory of things that we can't change is the fact that based on any or all of our attributes or choices people are going to, and always have, put lables, or brands, on other people.

She's a muscian. He's a painter. They play basketball. She likes to cook dinner. He likes to make desserts. She only makes chocolate desserts. He only makes desserts with Godiva chocolate. She likes to use Hersheys.

How would you ever have a world in which this would not happen?

I didn't really understand the whole Target bit.

Marketing is not in place of God. God did make us to enjoy various aspects of life.

Melody said...

Further more, we brand ourselves. We want to me known for certain things, our brains, our looks, our kindness...so we do things that match up with what we want to be known for...I just don't see how you can complain about this at all.

Jason Hesiak said...

"Further more, we brand ourselves. We want to me known for certain things, our brains, our looks, our kindness...so we do things that match up with what we want to be known for...I just don't see how you can complain about this at all."

No wonder I've struggled much of my life with being understood. I know I'm being clear about the moo-cow thing. In this instance. Anyway...

Anyway...I "typically" ("type" is an impression, like a brand) DON'T "brand" myself. Or I try not to. I usually try to wear clothing that does not show a brand name or log where people can see it. And IF I do, its usually either because the article of clothing was a gift (and that's what it means to me), or I try to make sure its some old brand or modoel that no one gives a shit about anymore.

So...then...wanting to be known for my preference for Coffee Bean over Starbucks is different from my wanting to be known for my kindness, my brains, my gentleness, my compassion, or even my looks. This is my point. Kindness, gentleness, intelligence and such things are attributes of our original nature, as made by God, in HIS OWN IMAGE. Same with compassion, sort of. Whereas Starbucks and Coffee bean branding is my "being made in" the image of human and/or created things. Its actually a commandment not to make graven images of created things.

So being branded an "Oscar Meyer Weiner" ("all I want to be is an...") is different from being "branded" compassionate. Being branded compassionate brings a warmth to my heart. Being branded an Oscar Meyer Weiner makes me angry.

And the whole Target bit was a reference to my two and a half page book, which I guess you haven't read yet. That's cool.

"Yes, there is more of an emphasis on it now..."

This is my point. This is why marketing is unjust now. Its power and its force is TOTAL. It dwarfs, makes irrelevant and insignificant all other powers or forces.

..."but as long as anyone has ever tried to sell anything...it's been there. You cannot have business or trade without marketing."

See above about the current TOTALIZING aspect or quality of contemporary business and/or "marketing."

There is more. Much more. Ancient persuasion from a man's mouth to my ear is "totally" different from the totalizing presence, in time and space, of contemporary electric media...which, by the way...being a technology...is an "extension of man's being" (to quote McLuhan). Since it is "totalizing," and yet an extension of man's being...such a scenario is in itself unjust, or disharmonious.

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

BTW I don't actually "prefer Coffee Bean over Starbucks." And if I were to dive into such a conversation, I would say that I do prefer such and such products that they sell at Coffee Bean; whereas I prefer such and such products that they sell at Starbucks. And I would quickly note that I am annoyed by "branding."

Jason Hesiak said...

"I usually try to wear clothing that does not show a brand name or logo where people can see it. And IF I do, its usually either because the article of clothing was a gift (and that's what it means to me), or I try to make sure its some old brand or modoel that no one gives a shit about..."

And I drive a well-dented 95 Mazda Protege. My cell phone was simply the cheapest one at the store where I got my service, based on the customer service and the cheapness of the plan available by that company. And the shoes most folks ever see me wear are plain and simply; with no "brand" identity at all when you look at them (partially because they are simply old and comfortable). I have a nice leather jacket, but its so old, no one probably has any idea what brand it is. It is black; to me, that means something else entirely from the brand. Black means the opposite of branding to me, actually. And I like wearing a beaded necklace and bracelette that were given to me as gifts in Kenya, beautifully and colorfully hand made by some human being there.

Melody said...

Ok, but your emphatic refusal to have anything that is "branded" is still making a statement or giving yourself an image.

My little sister is the same way about not having any visible brand names on her. People used to give her brand name things just to annoy her (she's a really fun person to annoy, so I can hardly blame them). She actually appreciates a good marketing scheme, she just doesn't care for the particular image that wearing a brandname across one's shirt gives. So she chooses a different one for herself, knowing full well that you can't help having an image...but you can choose the image you have.

So you've chosen...and that's fine...but don't think that this choice has a different outcome than if you wore A&F every day of your life.

Jason Hesiak said...

For one thing, what is A&F? Whatever it is, it some company; and it is different from the "image" I've chosen. I want to "be like the holy ones of Isreal" rather than those who wear a particular brand of clothing. That's why I said:

"So...then...wanting to be known for my preference for Coffee Bean over Starbucks is different from my wanting to be known for my kindness, my brains, my gentleness, my compassion, or even my looks. This is my point. Kindness, gentleness, intelligence and such things are attributes of our original nature, as made by God, in HIS OWN IMAGE. Same with compassion, sort of. Whereas Starbucks and Coffee bean branding is my 'being made in' the image of human and/or created things. Its actually a commandment not to make graven images of created things. So being branded an "Oscar Meyer Weiner" ('all I want to be is an...') is different from being "branded" compassionate. Being branded compassionate brings a warmth to my heart. Being branded an Oscar Meyer Weiner makes me angry."


My saying that...followed by your..."but don't think that this choice has a different outcome than if you wore A&F every day of your life."...makes me feel like I'm being ignored. More likely, though, you probably just aren't hearing me. I seriously doubt you intend to ignore me (not being sarcastic, seriously).

So yes, you are right: "you can't help having an image." Its fundamental to our "nature"; we are "made in the 'image' of God." So I am trying to help WHAT image I do have, so far as I can. I am trying to LET myself have the image that we all DO "naturally" have, rather than having it STRIPPED from me by my clothing!

Jason Hesiak said...

Oh...duuhh...I figured out A&F. So yeah, my point stands. "Whatever it is, it some company; and it is different from the 'image' I've chosen. I want to 'be like the holy ones of Isreal' rather than those who wear a particular brand of clothing."

Besides that, I have serious problems with the following: "don't think that this choice has a different outcome than if you wore A&F every day of your life." The "image" of A&F IS the "image" that is displayed in the commercial linked at Erdman's "Market, Brand and Sacrament" post. When I wear A&F every day, THAT is the "image" that I "put on." And frankly, its different from the image of God. Hence my problem with it.

To say that my image is or would not be different from what it would be if I wore A&F every day implies a serious and problematic divorce from the actual and concrete reality of the world we live in. That A&F commercial actually MEANS something to the people who watch it, to the people who wear the clothing, and to the people who see peole wearing A&F. AND, the particularly referenced meaning, as PRODUCED by that commercial, IS DIFFERENT from the "meaning" of the "image of God," in which I am MADE.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: When I wear A&F every day, THAT is the "image" that I "put on." And frankly, its different from the image of God. Hence my problem with it.

That's an interesting thought, Jason.

Now, it is possible to distort the image of God, right? Of course. We do it all the time. Here's a question: Is it possible to distort the image of A&F? To twist it from what it was? Perhaps to take the positives and take it in the direction of the imago dei?

Melody said...

Sorry if I end up ignoring bits of what you say. You say a lot and...it's not always completely coherant and I'm not always able to give it my full attention, since I'm at work.

I guess my main thought with the outcome not being any different is not so much that we'll all turn out the same no matter what image we choose, but just that you can't escape having an image...which had seemed to be a big part of what you were upset about. As if you could somehow escape being catagorized if you tried hard enough.

On the other hand I think that the effect wearing A&F would have on you would seriously depend on how seriously you connected with the brand.

For example I love Old Navy clothing. It's comfortable, it fits well, it usually lasts a while, it's relatively in expensive, and they have a wide variety so I can usually find something I like.
But I really don't care for their advertising or the company itself.

So do I really have the Old Navy image...or just their clothes?

Now, I'm not saying their aren't some companies that I avoid like the plague becuase I hate what they stand for...but there are other companies that I do like.

Should I really liking all companies? Becuase the more you talk the more you seem to be saying that if we like a company we're somehow shorting God by not fully loving Him.

Where as I would argue that God has given us many blessings, food, family, friends, money, comfort, etc. none of these is bad - God gives them to us as gifts to enjoy.

The problem is when we put our enjoyment of these gifts over God.
If I love my money or my family before God it becomes wrong.

So yes, if being a Target girl somehow took priority before God that would be wrong.

I don't think it bothers God at all that I take enjoyment in the blessing of a fascinating and flourishing capitalist society...as long I remember that it is a gift from Him and He has the right to claim it whenever and however He chooses.

Melody said...

Oh, and I have a problem with your saying that by somehow avoiding the "world's image" you can strip down to your natural and most Godly image.

We're all made in the image of God, but it's a fallen world, so if you were as completely natural you'd be completely awful.

Jason Hesiak said...

"Sorry if I end up ignoring bits of what you say. You say a lot and...it's not always completely coherant and I'm not always able to give it my full attention, since I'm at work."

It's cool; don't worry. I think I can still get a feel for your response. But I would like to know what you took to be incoherent...eventually. I would like to be able to clear it up, if possible. So anyway...

"I guess my main thought with the outcome not being any different is not so much that we'll all turn out the same no matter what image we choose, but just that you can't escape having an image...which had seemed to be a big part of what you were upset about. As if you could somehow escape being catagorized if you tried hard enough."

Here I realize that I'm just being misunderstood. And it seems like we aren't GOING to get on the same page here, either. I DON'T think you are mishearing me because you have some conscious agenda; but I have been clear that I am talking about a specific "image" impressed upon me by various of man's crafted efforts at corporate branding of my identity. I think, maybe, you are mishearing me because, when I said that the "image" that I AM going after, you heard something different from what I meant...

"We're all made in the image of God, but it's a fallen world, so if you were as completely natural you'd be completely awful."

Luther would agree with you. I, however, am tired of my Protestantism. St. Thomas Aquinas would heartily disagree with you here, as do I, on theological grounds. When I refer to my "nature," I refer to the image of God in which I am made. I was not originally made in the world's image; and to say that I have two natures - one worldly and one Godly - is bogus and from left field. I'm talking about a reconcilliation, a return - to what's always been and what will always be...but what is hidden, covered over and corrupted by sin.

I don't have a "sin nature." If I had a "sin nature," that would make Satan a creator, my "Daddy." And, well, Satan is little bitch in the hands of the God who created my one and only "nature" and/or "image." The one I hope to display to the world.

So...above...when I said that you heard something different from what I meant...as I said, I don't think you consciously had an agenda that caused you to ignore what I was saying. I think you interpreted what I was saying through a different interpretive lense from the one through which I was speaking. And that I was apparently not clear enough about the one through which I was speaking. Sorry. Now, however, it should be clear. Is it?

Sort of secondarily..."On the other hand I think that the effect wearing A&F would have on you would seriously depend on how seriously you connected with the brand. For example I love Old Navy clothing. It's comfortable, it fits well, it usually lasts a while, it's relatively in expensive, and they have a wide variety so I can usually find something I like.
But I really don't care for their advertising or the company itself."

My point here is two fold:

1. I think there is always a relation between the personal meaning I give to a company or its "image", and the meaning that it has to external persons living in external reality. A&F, however...its fairly obvious that they put forth a fantasy image of a meaningful, sensual and sexual life...the moment you put on their clothing. Obviously, that doesn't really happen. HOWEVER, if I put on their clothing, that "image" that is PRODUCED by A&F advertising is what will come to the minds of the persons in external reality...REGARDLESS of what my wearing of A&F clothing might mean to ME...precisely because these external observers of MY clothing have no idea what it means TO ME. HOWEVER, again, if I wear my old ass black leather no-name coat that I happen to like...no one will think anything of it, most likely, except, "black leather coat." And it might just provide a means to a conversation about Johnny Cash!

2) I don't like the Old Navy example. Its too much based on personal opinion about a company's advertising. The quality and price of a product is relatively more "objective" than your or my "like" for Old Navy advertising. In the case of A&F, however, it doesn't really matter whether you or I "like" their "branding." Their advertisements clearly and obviously MEAN to portray a certain image (described above a bit). And I think you, myself and Jonathan, and most any other Christian, can agree that its not the most healthy of images. In the case of A&F's advertising, its less of a matter of personal opinion or subjective meaning than in the case of Old Navy, I think. You can't really point to Old Navy advertisers and scream, "HEATHENS!" Unless you want to display an image and likeness of Happy Gilmore's mainline evangelical Grandma, who herself is always yealling "HE'S THE DEVIL"...at the likes of the less-than-threatening newspaper boy, or the little fragile old asian postman, or whomever. So anyway...that's why I would like to stick to the A&F example, to make my point above, in point (1).

To be clear, then. I'm not trying to "escape being categorized" in genral. I'm trying to escape being categorized as someone who identifies with the image that is displayed by A&F advertising. And, A&F advertising is a humanly crafted image. I do not want to be made in such a "graven image." Its one of the commandments. I want to be made in God's image.

Blessings,

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

oh...and Melody...thanks for responding. blessings again...

Jason Hesiak said...

"Now, it is possible to distort the image of God, right? Of course. We do it all the time. Here's a question: Is it possible to distort the image of A&F? To twist it from what it was? Perhaps to take the positives and take it in the direction of the imago dei?"

I suppose that would be possible, but the thing is, then...if you "take the positives" of the A&F image, you end up with the original image in which you were made....I think. But that's in terms of the image displayed by one who makes the image. There still remains the question of how we go about actually displaying our image, actually "making" oursleves appear in the world. No...I'm not a fan of bricolage, or collage, or anything of the sort. I can kind of handle montage; but...sow a cross over where your heart would be on your otherwise A&F shirt...and you get a funny montage...in which you might as well not have bought the dang A&F shirt in the first place. I think its a question of BEGINNINGS. Where is your starting point? Example...the opening scene or shot of a movie is often very important. The first "face" that a building gives you...it gives you the "rules" to its "game." So...beginnings...who gets to set the rules...A&F (do we buy the A&F shirt/image and then work from it?)...or God (do we start elsewhere and then taught A&F from a distance as the little "bitch" that it is? lol).

Interesting...regarding bricolage and collage...I think its relevant that I'm no structuralist. A pre-structured unconscious...prepackaged "stuff" with which we have to work with...I depart from Derrida there. That's why I'm a fan of the PLASTIC arts. They are about FORMATION. They aren't about gluing or snapping together pre-provided plastic pieces, lol. The Doyle did some posts on this in regards to psychology. Here, though, I'm talking about art and the "image."

How's that? Am I being clear?

Jason Hesiak said...

oops...correction to be in caps...

"do we start elsewhere and then TAUNT A&F from a distance as the little "bitch" that it is? lol"

Jason Hesiak said...

Oh...and Johnathan...there's also:

http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/2007/06/current-state-of-cultural-engagement.html

:)

Jason Hesiak said...

Oh and I forgot to address something:

"The problem is when we put our enjoyment of these gifts over God.
If I love my money or my family before God it becomes wrong. So yes, if being a Target girl somehow took priority before God that would be wrong."

I have already stated that the church ALREADY models itself after the business world. The church - in general and not you personally - has already decided that it loves its money and the business image of the world more than it loves God. That's the problem. You never really responded to this thought. The church has already decided that its better to love God through our love of money and the world rather than love money and the world through our love of God.

Blessings,

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

Additionally, you said: "I don't think it bothers God at all that I take enjoyment in the blessing of a fascinating and flourishing capitalist society..."

You find our society "fascinating." I find it maddening. Whatever. More importantly...or more "objectively"...our society is most certainly "flouringing"...ECONOMICALLY. But CULTURALLY and MORALLY...we are desparately bankrupt. Such a state of affairs is no surprise, either, since our society is RULED by its economy. That the economy RULES is exactly what I'm saying is "unjust," or disproportionate. It puts culture and morality to its service, which is...oh so whacked out in oh so many ways.

Melody said...

Jason, I don't think conversation is going to go anywhere. We're obviously coming from very different viewpoints.

I don't believe the church in general is following a wordly model, nor do I believe that capitalism is the source moral bankruptcy.

It's a tool, and like any tool it can be misused.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hey, I thought the dialogue/diatribes were pretty good.

Melody, One could also ask if the tool, itself, is ill-suited to the task, right??? Perhaps there are better tools??

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,

Thanks for your response.

"I don't believe the church in general is following a wordly model..."

Huh? Consumer...I mean seeker...services? CEO's...I mean...senior pastors? Closeted skeletons of powerful leaders...uuuhhh...I mean...the practice of confession among a body of believers? "Mega churches"...uuhh...I mean...churches that are ACTUALLY corporations? "Expository preaching"...uuhh...I mean...just get the job done and finish your tasks when you go home from this "meeting"? "Worship"...I mean..uuhh...entertainment? "Scripture"...I mean...flashy graphics on power point...like in a marketing pitch?

"...nor do I believe that capitalism is the source moral bankruptcy."

Me neither. I don't remember whether I said it here or at "Market, Brand and Sacrament," but I don't think that capitalism is morally wrong "per se." I'm talking about the world we live in, in the concrete (and not in the abstarct, nor in the speculative world of what the free market is ideally). Capitalism has been around a long time, but marketers haven't been our priests that whole time. Although I'd say that it was probably inevitable.

Anyway...you mentioned the morality issue. Actually...my main concern is CULTURAL. I say "main concern" there, BECAUSE - unlike morality - I DO think that there is a direct correspondence between our economy and our cultural bankrupcy. I do think of our capitalism as a direct source of our cultural bankrupcy. And here I am living as an architect and trying to establish some cultural richness. Here is where I said that I feel marketing to be a personal sleight against ME, "personally." You haven't addressed this...??

Blessings,

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

Johnathan, thanks for weighing in.

Also...Melody...you said its a tool. Again, speaking specifically in the concrete and not about capitalism per se...if the marketers are our priests...then our economy is our idolatry...and not just a "tool" that "can be misused." The "market" is the new Temple of Baal.

Melody said...

Jason, "Here is where I said that I feel marketing to be a personal sleight against ME, "personally." You haven't addressed this...??

Mostly because it doesn't make any sense. How can something that has been an establish part of doing business since long before you were born be a personal slight against you?

A personal slight would be like you grandparents giving all your cousins birthday presents and not you. That has to do with you, personally, marketing isn't personal.

I'm sorry you think the church has become a corporation. I can only emphatically dissagree.
Where you see people being entertained I see people praising God for his great grace. Where you see CEOS I see men who have committed their lives to encouraging the bride of Christ.
Where you see people who just want to get their Sunday morning experience over with I see people who crave that time of learning.

I hope that our dissagreement is merely a matter of vastly different experiences, because it would sadden me greatly to know that we were looking at the same people and coming to such different conclusions.

I'm talking about the world we live in, in the concrete (and not in the abstarct, nor in the speculative world of what the free market is ideally).

So am I. Idealism is useless.

"Capitalism has been around a long time, but marketers haven't been our priests that whole time."

Ok, well I don't agree that marketers are our priests.

there is a direct correspondence between our economy and our cultural bankrupcy. I do think of our capitalism as a direct source of our cultural bankrupcy.

I think you need to explain
1. How you determine a culture to be bankrupt.
and
2. How capitalism would cause such a thing.

Given our track record I, I already know I disagree, but I can't discuss it at the moment since I really don't know how you've come to these conclusions.

Melody said...

Jon, absolutely. There could be a better tool. Although at this point I'm not even sure anymore what we're talking about marketing being a tool for...

Are we still talking about business or are we wading in the murky waters in which making money equals under-cutting religion? I find all that very confusing.

If we're talking about business, sure, there could be something better than what we've got going on right now, but I wouldn't know what it was anymore than a 3rd century merchant would be able to envision branding.

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,

Again, thanks for your response and questions.

"Mostly because it doesn't make any sense. How can something that has been an establish part of doing business since long before you were born be a personal slight against you?"

How our economic "tradition" is a personal sleight against me I will explain in a moment, when I answer your question about how it is related to our cultural bankrupcy.

"A personal slight would be like you grandparents giving all your cousins birthday presents and not you. That has to do with you, personally, marketing isn't personal."

OUR "grandparents" gave my business person cousins lots of room for value and meaning in OUR world...leaving me...interested in art and culture...sitting in the dugout.

"I think you need to explain...1. How you determine a culture to be bankrupt."

For one thing, I'm talking about OUR culture, in particular. How would I determine OUR culture to be bankrupt? Its simple. Compare all of our meaningless architectural form (governed by the economy, BTW!...actually, then, "meaningless" is a bit of a misnomer...its "meaning" is governed by the economy!) to the Parthenon, or to any Gothic Cathedral whatever. Compare T.S. Eliot (not exactly American in spirit) or W.B. Yeates to Jay Z. Or compare classical music's mischevious and misbehaving but talented badboy, Mozart, to Jim Morrison. Then simply consider our popular "artistic" figures. Avril Levine, Christina Agulera, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears...I could name worse, I'm sure. Compare to "artistic figures" of the past...Michelangelo, Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleski, Bernini.

"I think you need to explain...2. How capitalism would cause such a thing."

From one angle, lets examine again the architectural example. As stated previously, the "meaning" given to our architectural form is given or determined by the economy...by the form's economic effect or value....which is mainly determined by marketers, or maybe even "the market." So, "meaning" there is used quite loosely, to return again to the example of the imaginary Nike commercial as compared to the Michelangelo "portrait," to reference my previous 2.5 page book. Then lets examine other previously referenced examples: "Avril Levine, Christina Agulera, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears." The images of our popular artistic figures are "produced" by...ultimately...the economy...and...again...the "market." The agents of the market, in this case, are the "music" "Producers." The terms "music" and "producer" there also used quite loosely, as was the term "meaningful" in regard to architectural form.

So far as whether marketers, or at least whomever the folks are who spearhead business interests, are our priests...let me illustrate with an example....see above about what or who determines architectural and/or musical meaning and/or form. Its not really very disputable. Its pretty much a matter of the factual course of current events.

I mean, I'm sure you've heard the turn of phrase, "Its the economy, stupid." Its usually meant in a light hearted, "meaningless" and "harmless" kind of way...which only frustrates the daylights out of ME.

So far as church goes...and your hope that you and I simply have in mind different experiences...
Mega churches...we all know them. They're corporations. Expository preaching and "go home and do this task"...we've all heard those sermons our whole lives. Leasers with closeted skeletons as compared to confessed sins...they are public...we've all heard about them...and there are probably many more. The teckno-show that is worship...occurs at many churches, or even most.

CEO style leadership...that takes a small bit of explaining...I'm talking about the basic way that churches work. A future pastor goes to seminary, learns the rules of the game, gets plugged into a pulpit position, and then...like any other pastor who knows and is trained about the rules to the game...talks about the same stuff and makes generally the same choices and/or decisions in a given circumstance. The whole machine runs "systematically," much like how a corporation works, in which...typically...anyone trained in the rules of the game will and/or can be plugged into the position and make the "right" decisions when faced with certain circumstances. Compare that to the PERSON...and NOT the "system"...of David, who was "the beloved one of Isreal." The leadership of our churches is typically not based on the actual presence of a beloved PERSON, but on a set of systematic rules and/or regulations by which pretty much every church runs. There are "charismatic" leaders out there, but they are the anomoly....and on top of that they are still harly "persons" (like David), but "charismatic leaders."

Blessings,

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

One very specific example of the tension between cultural and economic forces:

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,11711,1317187,00.html

Some relevant tidbits...

"In a candid new book, Breaking Ground, Daniel Libeskind recounts what he calls his 'forced marriage' to David Childs, the favoured architect of the World Trade Centre site's developer, Larry Silverstein."

"He portrays Mr Childs as patronising and overbearing, and intent on eliminating as much of Mr Libeskind's vision as possible from the eventual design."

"...much of the rest of the design has been heavily modified to meet Mr Silverstein's 'uncompromising demands for yet more office space without regard for the public plazas, parks, memorials and streets of the master plan', as Mr Libeskind puts it."

"Mr Childs's company, Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), was hired directly by the developer - who told reporters he had an "absolute right to choose the architects" - while Mr Libeskind won the prize from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation."

"The consequent working relationship, Mr Libeskind writes, was often 'downright nuts'. He claims that no representative from his company was allowed to enter SOM's offices unless someone of equivalent seniority was present, and that for the majority of the time during their weekly meetings, Mr Childs would 'chatter on about where he'd just been or would lecture me on architecture'."

"'He gave me the patronising look reserved for the village idiot,' he notes on another occasion, describing it as 'weird to inhabit David Childs's universe, where everybody knew his or her prescribed place ... Childs wasn't interested in what we were working on; he was proceeding with plans for the building he had proposed to Larry Silverstein many months before.'"

"The collaboration was undoubtedly a clash of cultures between the black-suited European architect, poetic and sometimes baffling in his pronouncements about the site, and the no-nonsense American commercial designer."

-----------------

BTW...that was a long time ago, now. Now there's virtually nothing left of Libeskind's orignially competition-winning design, and what appears there is ugly and yet "interesting" (to the BANK)...and nice and well compacted with as much office space as possible...so as to ensure as much money flow as possible for the DEVELOPER.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

I was referring to using Corp. marketing and advertising as a tool or a model for how we do church. Probably the best example of this is the mega church whose multi-media marketing/advertising techniques rival the Corporations, themselves. However, all churches seem to do marketing and advertising in some way, I think....

Melody said...

Jon,
Ok, well in that case, yes I definately think there are better tools that could be used.

When you look at countries where the church is thriving you don't see marketing as a prominant feature.

On the other hand they are very different cultures...on the other hand even given our culture I still think the use of marketing only creates an outward appearance of success, without actually realizing the goals of the church (universal).

Melody said...

Jason,

OUR "grandparents" gave my business person cousins lots of room for value and meaning in OUR world...leaving me...interested in art and culture...sitting in the dugout.

Either you have an ego the size of Alaska or you don't understand what makes something personal.

The people and events that have caused business to take precedence over art and high culture (I can only assume you mean high culture, because if business is the culture it can't take precedence over itself) did not do so because of you. Therefore, it isn't personal.

You happen to have been born into a culture that does not reflect your personal interests, but if a person who had a flare for business were born into an art culture or a farming culture they might feel similarly displaced and that would not be a personal slight either.

"For one thing, I'm talking about OUR culture, in particular. How would I determine OUR culture to be bankrupt?"

When someone declares bankruptcy I don't think that someone has to ask how they in particularly are bankrupt.

Even so, given what you mentioned, you are comparing the worst of our present culture to the best of past cultures. I don't think that gives an accurate impression of what we have going on here.

It is as if you've compared Hershey's chocolate to Godiva and determined that Americans do not make good chocolate.

I don't have time to respond to the rest right now.

Jason Hesiak said...

"Either you have an ego the size of Alaska or you don't understand what makes something personal."

To say that the topic in question is not "personal" to me would be absurd. It effects me every day when I go to work. It often and largely governs many of my deepest emotions. It effects and is much of the fodder for my relationship with God, for good or bad. The number of design decisions that I "personally" have been involved in that have been made in the favor of business interests, sacraficing more deeply and wholistically meaningfull "intersts," is countless. The amount of anger I've experienced and pain I've endured as a resulf of these "personal" experiences of mine at this point feels like more than I can handle. I realize I haven't explained all that yet, but please don't try and tell me I'm insane for thinking of this "personally." Its quite personal, and to say that is not is to "buy into" the rule and notion of the oh-so-amorphous and less-than-personal "market." We live in the world we live in because of actual decisions and ways of life made and lived by actual persons.

As for my ego...I have pride like the rest of us. But my struggle...with God...is much more about my DAMAGED "ego" than its overinflation. And such damage DOES have something to do with the topic at hand in this conversation. Although it also is intimately interwoven with my childhood social experiences. But the two - my art and my childhood social experiences - are also related...hence my reference to their being "interwoven."

"The people and events that have caused business to take precedence over art and high culture (I can only assume you mean high culture, because if business is the culture it can't take precedence over itself) did not do so because of you. Therefore, it isn't personal."

They didn't make the decions and live a certain lifestyle BECAUSE of me, but...as mentioned a moment ago...it has EFFECTED me greatly...me "personally."

"You happen to have been born into a culture that does not reflect your personal interests, but if a person who had a flare for business were born into an art culture or a farming culture they might feel similarly displaced and that would not be a personal slight either."

My "personal interests" happen to reflect certain aspects of the "image of God" in which we are made. Your "business interests" happen do ALSO do the SAME. That's why you have heard me make repeated reference - either here or at the "Market, Brand and Sacrament" post - to a harmonious and "just" way of life, in which all the "parts" of a society or all of the folks who play their particular ROLES in that society, do so. I am in favor of a society in which the different parts interrelate to each other in such a way that the whole of the "image of God" is allowed to shine through the "persons" who constitute that society. I am in favor of a society in which neither the more business minded folks nor the more artistic and poetic folks feel sleighted. I don't think that's too much to ask. In fact, I think it's "natural" to what it means to be a human or a "person."

"When someone declares bankruptcy I don't think that someone has to ask how they in particularly are bankrupt."

Maybe not, but it would probably be foolish. I don't know about you, but in my life I want to learn from my mistakes rather than continually and repeatedly banging my head against a concrete block wall.

"Even so, given what you mentioned, you are comparing the worst of our present culture to the best of past cultures. I don't think that gives an accurate impression of what we have going on here."

In a sense, you are correct. I could have compared Brahms to Robert Shaw rather than to Brittney Spears. Only problem is, Brahms - or folks like him - were "popular" in that day. Whereas in our day, no one has heard of either Robert Shaw or Brahms. Precisly because they are interested in "pop culture." In the 1500's, people's idea of "theater" was Shakespeare. In our day, the equivalent image is of far less meaningful "plays" - "Live Free or Die Hard," "Dude, Where's my Car," "Basic Instinct," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Fast and the Furious." In reality, however, all of those examples are deeply "meaninful" and reflect the reality of the images that most of us in our world have before us as we ponder the "meaning" of life. So, in a sense I'm comparing the worst vs. the best. Apples and oranges. But in another sense, I'm comparing peaches and peaches - what people of a yesterday took as "art" and what people of today take as "art."

Melody said...

Jason, I wasn't saying that the topic didn't affect you personally, just that it is not aimed at you personally.

Earthquakes affect people personally, but they're not personal.

As for sacrificing design for business, yes Jason, that is the art world. I do it every single day. And I rant and rave and then I get over it.

I am, after all, working for my customer. I design what I want on my own time. If I somehow ended up making money off of those designs, all the better.

I think your idea of what society should be is incredibly idealistic and as such highly impractical. Surely we all wish for no one to feel slighted, but I imagine you have a fairer chance of solving world hunger first.

I don't really understand why the popularity of Brahms, in his own day, is a problem. Yes, people today are interested in pop-culture, back then Brahms was pop-culture. Sometimes things are popular because they're good. There are popular muscians with actual talent today (I'm pretty sure I can't even call Brittany muscian ...she's really just a very pretty person).

And honestly, yes, there was a time when Shakespear was good theater (like now), but I don't think anyone is going to compare Pirates to Shakespear...except for you.

You're comparing people who have this extrodinary talent to pieces that enjoy brief popularity.

Many, many artists were never recognized as great in their own day. Bach died a pauper, Monet had a lot of children, very little money, and no recognition, Emily Dickenson was almost entirely unknown during her lifetime.

Jason Hesiak said...

Thank you again Melody for the response.

So far as starving and unrecognized artists go...don't forget Van Goh and Miro. Many of Miro's paintings were from hallucinations due to starvation.

However...

"I don't really understand why the popularity of Brahms, in his own day, is a problem. Yes, people today are interested in pop-culture, back then Brahms was pop-culture. Sometimes things are popular because they're good. There are popular muscians with actual talent today (I'm pretty sure I can't even call Brittany muscian ...she's really just a very pretty person)."

A) Brahms, quite simply, was not "popular culture." Again, lets go back to my imaginarily proposed Nike commercial. The point was not something as transient as an annual model of shoe...or an MTV booty shaker (a booty that will be less pleasing in a few years, too). As a simple historical fact, "popular culture" did not exist in Brahms day. Folks back in such days had "folk" or "vernacular" culture, but that's different.

B) The question is of what sets the standard, of what the image of "art" is that stands before the minds of the people. I don't know music well enough, so lets use film as an example (my first thought is, "talented musicians - HAH!?"...but that's more than slightly hypocritical). One of my professors in school said that the only good film director left is Fellini. I'm not so sure I agree with him, but we can go with it for the sake of our conversation (since its clear that most of what's out there, especially to be taken as "art" in the minds of "the people," is crap). To my point, then. Who's heard of Fellini? And...more importantly, maybe...who's heard of Eisenstein? That guy is largely responsible for what "film" means to us now. Comparatively, who in Brahm's day had heard of Brahms? And more importantly, what came to mind when folks thought of "music" (to refer again to my point (A), that "pop culture" simply did not exist back then, and that the "art" that set the standard did not so dwell on what is so transient).

So, you can also take that as a response to another thing that you said: "You're comparing people who have this extrodinary talent to pieces that enjoy brief popularity." "Brief popularity" DEFINES the "art" of our day!!!

"As for sacrificing design for business, yes Jason, that is the art world. I do it every single day. And I rant and rave and then I get over it. I am, after all, working for my customer. I design what I want on my own time. If I somehow ended up making money off of those designs, all the better."

Well, I don't know what your dissatisfaction is with your client, but I get the impression that its different from mine. I'm not talking about the problems with trying to save money. Quite possibly my favorite building of the last century might have had the lowest budget of all the buildings I visited during my entire semester long trip to Europe in 4th year.

In my case, however, my dissatisfaction with my "client" is my dissatisfaction to his or her having SOLD OUT to a whole big ass value system of our society. Which he or she desires to have reflected in the design (not just by "saving some money")...and they expect me to be their puppet when I think that their "values" are DEATH. I don't give a shit about a decision between green or red shutters. I give my life to trying to reflect a healthier LIFE in an artifact.

So, on the question of a healthier way of life: "I think your idea of what society should be is incredibly idealistic and as such highly impractical. Surely we all wish for no one to feel slighted, but I imagine you have a fairer chance of solving world hunger first."

I have a fairer chance of solving world hunger first, BECAUSE its an ECONOMIC ISSUE!!!!!!!!!! That's what everyone cares about. I'm not saying I don't care about world hunger, I'm saying, "Listen to yourself...WHY would that be?"

And the issue is not practicality. Study for a moment the term "praxis" in Greek, and you get a different idea of it from our notion of practicality that places it in dialectical opposition to the idealistically fantastical. I'm not interested in the idealistically fantastical one bit. In fact, I think thats one of our modern problems. But not the topic of conversation, here, so I'll try and make this brief.

Another of my professors said that if architecture is MOST like ANY other profession...it's MEDICINE. And "medicine" is "practiced." It does no good to ideallistically imagine a medicinal "practice."

What do medicinal practicioners do? They diagnose the sickness, and then they prescribe a treatment. In my case, I am diagnosing the sickness, proposing a treatment, and my "clients", rather than listen, overpower me every day at work and say, "More sickness, please." And its usually that polite. Usually. Its quite practical, actually. It happens every day as I "practice" the shit we call architecture.

The issue is not the practicality or impracticality of my "vision." The issue is the stupidity of the society we live in. More precisely, the issue is that only one aspect of man's "image" in which he is made rules over and dwarfs the presence of the rest of the aspects of man's image. Only one aspect is reflected in our society and its values. There are others, but they are missing, and painfully so. We are all humans. When a part of us is missing, we don't just go, "Oh well, there goes my arm. Didn't really need that anyway." "Need" is "practical."

As for Emily Dickenson...that was her own fault. She hid everything in her attick.

Melody said...

Jason...honestly, I can't do this discussion anymore.

We're coming from completely different viewpoints and half the time I'm having trouble even figuring out what your viewpoint is, much less what I think about it.

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,

A) Thanks for engaging up to this point. Its helpful for me to better understand where others are at.

B) That you...and seemingly everyone else besides Jonathan and the Doyle and a few others...don't understand where I'm at is why I'm in the dugout. It doesn't exactly lift my spirits, I have to say. I'm in the dugout because your understanding, which is so differnet from mine, is the one upon which our society operates...I think. Its further disheartening to me that we are both Christian, and can't even understand each other.

Blessings,

Jason

Jonathan Erdman said...

So, you two have finally reached an impasse??!!

For what it's worth, I've enjoyed your lively exchange. I think important points were made that are reflective of the differing perspectives that currently exist in the church as she interacts with the greater culture. Specifically, it always seems difficult to see where the line is that differentiates being "in the world" while still not being "of the world."

Jason Hesiak said...

Thanks Jonathan. I guess we have reached an impasse. Glad to hear you enjoyed our exchange. I'll admit: I have don't have a very good idea of what "in the world but not of the world" means.

For more, though, on what on earth I mean when I say all this stuff (since I'm not being understood)...especially the stuff about "practicality"...

)from the following link):
http://simplegodstuff.blogstream.com/v1/pid/232251.html?CP=&HP=1#TC

T.G., Peter and whomever else,

On consumerism ect...

OK. I think I'm seeing better the point of view of T.G., the Pope and, I think, Peter. At the least, I see its reasoning, I think. Basically, the social things that are common to all the members of society should be handled by some institution or entity whose authority or raizon d'etre is common to all the members of any given society. Such reasoning is founded on the notion of natural law. There are certain things that are common to the nature of every man; but there are certain aspects of religious and secular life that are not common to the religious or secular folks. OK. Gottit. I think.

So, to start with the obvious inconsistency in what I had said before about different of my needs "getting met" through different sectors of society. Obviously, that sounded hypocritically consumeristic. I didn't explain thist at the time, simply because I didn't want to write too much. But basically...I see it like this. That same part of me that is getting a "need met" at church, is also being "offered" to the church and to God...at least I would think that's the way it should work. Interdependence...sharing each others burdens...mutual and self-giving love...that kind of thing. Like a man and wife, and Paul's exhortation to "meet each other's needs." He didn't mean it consumeristically. He meant it in the sense of joyful self-sacraficial giving. So, onward...

Now I'll go to where I think it might most help to give a picture of what I'm trying to say...

T.G. said: "[first quoting me] 'My point in all that, though, is to say that I don't feel "totally" comfortable with the idea or notion that various of my deeply seeded legitimate needs that are part of how God made me are to be met by different instituions that are located in different sectors of society. In this sense I resonate with G.K. Chesterton's thought that the ideal of God's Kingdom on earth was abandoned too quickly. I think and feel strongly that God is and should be 'in charge'...of everything.' [T.G.'s response] ●In a practical sense, I am not sure what you mean by this. From my perspective I don’t think Chesterton meant that the church should be running the economy."

First of all, as I've said, I don't have all this worked out in my head. For example, Peter mentioned Chesterton's view that local political entities should take care of basic needs like trash collection and mail distribution, ect. I guess I would be OK with that. But then I would have to ask, what of large scale situations that require large scale political entities? Such as defense and military (Jefferson advocated local militias for defense purposes only, I think)? But that's a bit of a digression. I'm not here trying to work all that out. What I am here trying to do is give a bit more of a picture of what I've been trying to say about consumerism and our relation to different sectors of society.

A grocery store is a good example of a place that all of us go to, secular and religious alike, due to needs we have that are also common to us all. My point...or hope...or "vision" (of God, sort of)...is that the Grocery store should...or does...be (or is) full of signs of the presence of the divine. When we walk into a grocery store, it doesn't mean that God disappears into non-existence (just because its something as lowly as a grocery store)! Yet, the sensible signs or symbols of His presence certainly do!

So, what do I mean, then, when I say that the grocery store IS full of signs of "divinity"? Despite the modern Enlightenment lessons that the secular realm and the "state" occupy neutral ground...I'm not buying it. Sorry. Jesus said, "You're either for me or against me." There's no fence riding here! All the sensible signs we experience are signs of some hidden spiritual force that is at work...with some level of authority behind it...whether its the ultimate King or "His" little bitchy satan prince. Kind of like how the expression on a "person's" face is a sign or indication of what's going on "inside" the person, in the "person's" non-locatable but substantial essence of who he or she is.

Back, though, to what I mean when I say that the grocery store has no signs of the presence of the God we know and follow. Lets say that, as an architect, I were designing a grocery store for a "client"...a chain grocer company. Lets say that I tried to design some "natural" lighting in that store...as a SIGN of some divine presnce who is sovereign beyond and within human operations and technologies...such as the florescent light bulb, which is in the typical grocery store the only source of "light."

And I say that I would want to design some "natural" lighting into the building as a "sign" of God's preseence...but I mean that in a very real sense. Not that God is in the sun and I'm one step removed from worshipping the sun...no. But that God isn't just some inaginary hero who will one day come and save us. God is the very substance and being in which all the universe exists and holds together...including the sun, the concrete block and all its ingredients that go into the making of a grocery store, the metal and energy that goes into whatever kind of light bulb, ect. And although the natural laws by which that light bulb "works" are also a sign of God and His presence (sort of an extension of the meaning of Romans 1, maybe)...considering the fact that all those corporate-cogito words that fill overwhelm your mind and your senses as soon as you walk in the damn door...I'd say that some good refreshing natural lighting would be a good idea...as a different kind of sign that points in a different kind of sacred direction...of a personal and substantial being who we can't really control even though we participate in His ways when we screw the florescent light bulb in the grocery store ceiling.

Now...lets pretend I try to explain all that to my grocery store chain owning client. He's going to tell me to kiss his ass...that its not worth the extra effort and/or money, no one will pay any damn bit of attention to the natural lighting, and that's not the "point" when you walk in a grocery store anyway...and on top of that, the sun will probably get in the people's eyes and cause glares and they won't be able to read the cogito-corporate-verbalized-though-written-word-labels and spend as much money! When the grocery store chain owning client says this to me, I know in advance that he will win the argument, my face will turn beat red, I will want to punch a wall and break my hand, but I will refrain, loose any sense of meaning, hope or candle light that had previously been present and burning in my soul...and design what he says to design. And everything about said design will be governed by the turnstyles of the door and cash register (get people in and out, and spending money!). At least that...or something like it...would describe my life up to this point.

The next way that I think I could help explain what I mean...T.G. said: "[quoting me] 'You wrote: I see a relation between what I was asking about the role of service organizations in view of the common good and my experience as an architect. I definitely - for sure - don't see my 'work' as an architect benefitting the 'common good,' unless 'common good' there is only in reference to the economic 'common good' of more folks than just my individual self. In other words, I know that the architecture that is pumped out of my office is for the economic good...and not much good beyond it.' [then T.G.'s response] ●I don’t know exactly what you do in your profession; however, I would not underestimate the good of your work. I think it is a wonderful thing to have safe, comfortable and affordable buildings in which to live, work, play and worship."

Well, as you can see from my above tirade about grocery stores, I think there's more to it than that. Of course, as well, there's much more to it, in my mind, than what I was able to explain above about the imaginary grocery store, but this is probably not the place. One aspect of it, of course, is BEAUTY! If architecture is a "plastic art," it should certainly be beautiful. T.G., you did not mention that. And I think of Beauty as another sign of God's presence...or at least as a kind of indication of the RELATIONSHIP between God and man. I am thinking of Florensky...the notion that God is enthralled by us, delighted by us, wants to jump for joy, so to speak, at the sight of us. That's because of our beauty in His eyes. And there's a song we sing in church: "It's Your beauty, Lord, that...something something something...Its your kindness Lord, that leads us to repentence."

Beauty in architecture is not to paint an ugly woodena nd otherwise only-utilitarian fence post a pretty color. Its primarily about participating in God's natural law by designing in accord with the mathematically (TRUE) PROPORTIONS by which God originally "designed" Man and the universe! "Beauty is the splendor of truth."

Nor, then, is beauty about making an otherwise only "useful" and/or consumersitic grocery store "look good" (or interesting) with an expensive, flashy and shiny facade. In that case, the "higher purpose" of the grocery store (in this case its "looking interesting"...the corresponding code word in theology would be "faith") is completely devoid and/or separated from its "natural" (or "lower") existence...from its serving its purpose to meet a basic human need, from its being a mini-localized-machine for consumerism, ect. The theologically corresponding code word to this "lower" aspect of the purpose of the grocery store is "reason." My thought for the role of BEAUTY in architecture is that it is actually one of the things that unifies rather than separates high and low, faith and reason, material and spiritual, ect. Whereas we usually tend to think of it in the opposite way. And usually beauty is "tacked on" to the "natural" or "useful" existence of the building...leaving it looking "tacky."

So, with these goals or thoughts in mind for what architecture truly is or can be (it can signify the substantial Being/presence of God, and it can help unify heaven/earth, nature/spirit or whathaveyou...among other things)...I don't think I'm underestimating the value of my "work" at my "job" at all. In fact, I'm not sure, but I might be overestimating it. A very secular gal (she did her thesis on sex and architecture, mosly consisting of a study of supposed phallic and vaginal symbology) walked into a very low budget monestary of the last century, done by a famous architect, and said: "I sense the presence of God here." And we were standing in a merely useful hallway, in which the beauty of the lighting, its shadows cast upon the floor and its patterns (also mathematical/"true"), ect...thrust her deeply into a place of wonder and awe of the God who is PRESENT and SEEN in creation.

One more thing...

T.G. said: "Humans, of course, because of their nature cannot be compartmentalized. Institutions, on the other hand, in any organized society, must be somewhat specific as to their function."

OK, fair enough. This goes with the basic thrust of the argument. However, as per the above...I'm not comfortable with walking into a grocery store under the assumption that its "neutral" ground and that its signs don't point anywhere special or powerful or of any sort of spiritual or divine substance in any way. And I would like for all of my life and my being to be "consumed" with the presnce of God. I gotta go, so I will probably explain this a bit more in a bit. Obviously, the human being can't really be "compartmentalized" in the sense that you apparently took me to mean "compartmentalized."

Blessings,

Jason

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Dearest Everyone,

Earlier I had said: "Beauty in architecture is not to paint an ugly wooden and otherwise only-utilitarian fence post a pretty color. Its primarily about participating in God's natural law by designing in accord with the mathematically (TRUE) PROPORTIONS by which God originally "designed" Man and the universe! 'Beauty is the splendor of truth.'"

Please allow me to extend that a bit. For one thing, here's a link or two to show what I mean about man's being designed by number and proportion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitruvian_man
"this picture represents a cornerstone of Leonardo's attempts to relate man to nature. Encyclopaedia Britannica online states, 'Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe.'...The drawing itself is often used as an implied symbol of the essential symmetry of the human body, and by extension, to the universe as a whole." "SYMMETRY" there is for the Latin word "symmetria," or however you spell it...which goes back to the Greek for "eurythmia," which mean a whole heck of a lot more than the fact that we have two mirroring arms and legs and eyes and ears. Great architecture is designed from the very proportions of man, and therefore rings true with mathematics of nature.

Most buildings and/or grocery stores are severly OUT of proportion. This makes them ugly, for one thing. But more importantly to our conversation on consumerism, I think that such uglyness reflects a severe disproportion in society and its values, again like a "person" whose facial experssions or "body language" reflect what's going on "inside" the person.

Here's another, newer link on man and God's proportions...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/raimist/94211228/
I think that sketch was done sometime between 1915 and 1925.

And the following link isn't the most theoretically sound, I don't think...but gives a very good very practical picture of what I mean when I say "proportion."
http://www.artinarch.com/ct18.html
What do I mean by "not the most theoretically sound"? So far as I know, the following is simply incorrect: "they have all evolved from the dimensions of some basic unit: in a Greek temple, it's the circular columns derived from the trunk of a tree, which is the basic unit for its construction." That sounds like a bit of American Romanticism. I think the "basic unit" of construction of the Greek temple was derived from the human body...a notion discussed everywhere else in that very link.

Interesting: "Pythagoras believed that one could demonstrate order in the universe by expressing all relationships among the parts of things in terms of single whole numbers; he believed that such relationships do exist among the perfect intervals of tones produced by sounding a stretching string." Those same numbers and proportions that govern classical music govern traditional architectural form. Because both are derived from a bigger "natural" truth.

As for what I mean when I say that the link is a good example of the "practicality" of the proportions of which I speak: "Measure must first be understood, not in terms of arithmetic, but as dimension, and the practical, functional energy of the human body...Until the invention of the metric system at the end of the eighteenth century, all measurements of lengths, plane surfaces, weights, volumes and time were related to human functions and capacities, to belief, concept and theory, invention and commerce. The Egyptian concept of length was the cubit, which was the length of the average forearm, from the elbow to the middle finger extended. The English foot rule is also based on a working unit of the body - the foot. Besides it being the length of the average foot, it is also the distance between the rungs of a ladder; as such it relates sensibly to the amount of energy required by arms and legs in the act of climbing." I'm not just talking about artsy fartsy whimsy-doo tackiness.

And that link also comments on Le Corbusier's "Modular" (the sketch that was the second link provided here): "The Modular Man is 183 cm (6ft) tall and with left arm raised, reaches a height of 226 cm (about 7 ½ ft). His head height, if partitioned as per Golden Section or the height of his navel, is 113cm (27 ½ ft), which, curiously enough, is half the height of the raised arm. From these and a fourth key point of the human figure, the parting of the legs (or the place where the right hand rests, 86 cm (34 inches) above the base), two series of measurements have been derived: the reaching height (blue series) and the head height (red series); each divided into diminishing proportions based on the Golden Section ratio." Every measurement EVERY of Corbusier's buildings (even grocer-like ones) is derived from his "Modular."

If designing an apartment building, Corbusier wouldn't have simply taken the minimum city-required setback, the maximum city-allowed height limit, subtracted the minimum city-required "open space allottment," and crammed as much money producing rentable space in that secular volume of secularly-viewed "space." Now not only "time is money," but space as well. Corbusier would have first respected the natural laws of the universe and reconciled them to the measures and proportions as given by the site. And I wouldn't view it as empty secular "space" but as the very a kind of participation in the very Being of God, who has real and true spiritual substance in the here and now (hence my enjoyment of Taize's itnerest in "the precious present") Its a question of what "rules," of what first "governs." The ECONOMY does not put the "arche" (Gk. meaning "first") in arche-techture. Although everyone seems to think that it does.

I will try to explain more about "compartmentalization" later...

Blessings,

Jason