The Power of Beauty: Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I point out that everyday people have great power to shape our culture. How? Through aesthetics. We the people (and our wallets) define what’s considered cool and beautiful! And that’s a force stronger than any government policy can ever be.

But how can an everyday person (who doesn’t have tons of social-media followers etc.) possibly help to shape society’s definitions of what’s cool and beautiful?

How? Through conversation!

But how, though? Many of us eco-spirited folk have tried to persuade our fellow humans to make green choices. And not only have we failed to persuade them, but sometimes we’ve even ended up alienating friends and family members.

But, how often have we used aesthetics as a talking point? Myself, I have only recently stumbled on this gold-mine.

Here are some examples I thought of, how a green-minded person can casually drop a comment about aesthetics. Casually, matter-of-factly, as if we were voicing a respectable, solidified, usually-unquestioned mainstream cultural norm. (In realtime conversation, in letters, on social media, or whatever.)

• “Look at that beautiful yard! There’s so much shade and so many different plants!”

• “Disposable plastic cups and plates are really tacky and take away from the dining-out experience, don’t you think? Let’s go someplace that uses real glassware and dishes.”

• “A lot of the new clothes I see in stores are really cheap-looking. The vintage clothes I get from thrift stores are so much better made, and nicely tailored.”

• “I just don’t find that straight-edged, manicured kind of landscaping attractive at all. It feels uptight.”

• “That house looks naked with no trees around it.”

• “Those cases of plastic bottled water they sell at the store are so ugly. And what a pain to carry them home! And who wants to drink plastic-encased water? And then later the bottles end up as trash on the beach!”

• “I love my cute refillable water bottle.”

• “Noise and lights from electric appliances and electronic gadgets are jarring to me. I try to keep as few of those things in my house as possible, and I always unplug them when I go to bed at night.”

• “That lawn service sounds like a chainsaw massacre, and the fumes are terrible!”

• “Big cars look clunky to me. Give me a cute little tiny pod-car any day — or better yet, a bicycle!”

• “Driving to a place that’s just down the block is so uncool; everyone I know is getting into skateboarding or walking!”

• “When I moved to an outdoorsy place with a super humid climate, I started to feel strange about wearing makeup. It looked out of place, and felt uncomfortable in hot weather, so I stopped wearing makeup.”

• “Ugh, that bathroom!” <looking at a cavernous marbled monstrosity in a real-estate listing or home-reno show> “Could it be any more garish?”

• “I wouldn’t even want my whole house to be that big, let alone just the bathroom!”

• “Sun-dried sheets and pillowcases smell the best!”

• My arms are looking more toned since I started hanging my laundry up to dry. Who knew a clothesline could be fitness gear!”

• “I prefer the flavor of life without air-conditioning, for the same reason I prefer the flavor of a peach at natural temperature to a peach that’s been in the refrigerator.” (I actually did write this some years back, in a Yahoo email forum, in response to someone who asked, “Why would anyone want to live without air conditioning?”)

(Of course, negative words like “uncool” or “ugly” can end up making people feel shamed for their preferences, so it might be best to only use those kinds of words in likeminded company, as a way of socially reinforcing “green” subcultural norms within our in-groups. And when talking with more mainstream folks, focus only on positive attributes of things: “cute”; “stylish”; “classy”; etc.)

What other examples can you think of?