All around us, we are being persuaded, nudged and influenced towards some commercial end. While not the film They Live’s conspiracy of aliens using mass media to control human social affairs through subliminal images, we are, nonetheless, surrounded by messaging platforms inundating us with mercantile messaging, calling us to action as consumers.
Imagine, instead of being advertised to, that the public spaces around us encouraged consideration of more noble human behavior. Think, for example, of a proliferation of your favorite artworks gracing the world around you, holding out their invitation for you to ponder those aspects of the human condition elicited by great art. In England, 22,000 billboards around the country will feature 57 works of art chosen by the public. This project, Art Everywhere, is labeled a very very big art show. But it is more than that. It is not only a chance to reclaim how we think and talk about our lives, but to shape those aspects of the world around us that physically frame and prompt those perspectives and behaviors.
In a previous post, Vocabulary of Values, I talked about how the contextual structure of our conversations advances or hinders or more humanist attitude towards our existence. In his book, Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton points out that a world that more commonly broadcasts business messages rather than moral ones unsurprisingly recontextualizes our conversations around meaning, purpose and value in our lives.
Instead of the delight that a laundry detergent now gets clothes two times whiter, perhaps we can revel in the joy, anxiety, solace and other genuine human pleasures and pains illuminated by art, and converse accordingly.