Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Design of Our Lives

I. It's a Wrap: Star Trek Design and Me

A while ago I said that listening to someone talk about furniture was my most dreaded event, and here I've spent this past week talking about furnishings.
Looking for correlations between 1960s design and Star Trek has been intriguing to the point of obsession. I could happily keep doing it, but I'd better wrap it up because I am so behind on (paid) work. It only takes a couple minutes to look at these posts, but you can imagine it takes far longer to put them together.

Maybe I'll come back to it later. I'd love to. (It'd make a gorgeous, glossy coffee table book.) But, in fact, I've discovered what I set out to find. After I watched Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" last week, I realized that Star Trek, The Original Series (TOS) has outlasted so much of its surroundings that it can seem free-standing. That can make it appear both more original and unique and also more bizarre and freaky than it really is. So I started to look at 1960s design and found, of course, the show is indeed totally rooted in its time and place. It's fascinating that in an imaginative, sometimes fumbling way, it reflects upon its roots and looks to the future too.

II. Ideas are things, and things are ideas.

What I didn't expect to start thinking about was how much we too are rooted in our time and place; how much our ideas are like pieces of furniture.

Once they arrive in our living spaces, these pieces, these ideas seem like they've always been there. And if we don't hold a garage sale every once in a while, they'll stay put. Eventually we'll think they are a natural part of us.
But they're not.
They--ideas and things--are human made. We make them out of materials of a particular time and place--colors and emotions, fabrics and facts, needs and desires and nails--using whatever tools we've inherited or sought out.

But unlike making furniture, often we don't know we're constructing ideas at all--or that we're taking in other people's ideas and accepting them as our own. It seems natural, like breathing. But it's not. If we grew up in a different time and place, we'd still breathe the same, but we'd decorate our minds differently.

Star Trek's furnishings and ideas are so wonderfully jolly-whompered, we can see that they're put together by humans. We can see the seams and rivets and watch them shudder under pressure. They announce where they came from--the furniture designers or the socio-political fashions or the scientific theories that gave them life.

If we looked at our own lives the way these posts have been looking at Star Trek, what would we find?
What needs a new lightbulb, battery, or cord? What would we be proud of? Ashamed of? What would make us laugh? What no longer fits? What could we return to its original owner? What would we ask forgiveness for? Give thanks for? What still makes us marvel?
And, what do we still dream about and long for?


Rudyinparis said...

{deep sigh}

fresca said...

Yeah. Furniture review can be sigh-inducing...

deanna said...

Brilliantly said. "But unlike making furniture, often we don't know we're constructing ideas at all--or that we're taking in other people's ideas and accepting them as our own."

I like the picture of decorating our minds. I hang around with people who look at culture, or try to remember to, and ponder these very things. Thanks for your input on the subject.

fresca said...

Thanks, Deanna! I think I like mid-century modern design because the interior decor of my own mind gets so very cluttered, it's positively baroque!