30 January 2007

How does lifestyle and fashion relate to mysticism?

Muji (無印良品, Mujirushi Ryōhin) is a Japanese retail company which sells a wide variety of household goods. Muji is distinguished by its design minimalism, emphasis on recycling, avoidance of waste in production and packaging, and no-logo policy. Products range from pens, notebooks, and clothing for men and women to food items and major kitchen appliances. Its primary business includes Café Muji, Meal Muji, Muji Campsite, florist and home furnishing; the company has recently taken steps into housing construction.

Muji is in the process of opening it's first North American stores, both in New York City.

EDIT — Just speaking with my friend Scott in Germany, and this is what he has to say about Muji:

scott says:
muji is a cheap anti-brand
not much better
dE says:
poor quality?
scott says:
anti-brand japanese brand
no lables

I live in a city where Diesel and J. Lindeberg have outsold any other city in North America per capita. Ikea is in every household, but the quality is shite and few are aware of any alternatives. And where people trick themselves out with style, they're often spending way too much for weak branded adaptations of what's already been predefined by others. (Diesel's attempts to define urban attitude and storytelling through their pre-ruined lines is ridiculous.) But people buy this stuff up in droves, as it's been defined to them. Wear Diesel, you belong to the tribe of choice. You may now chase after bimbos and top forty music.

Then are the subcultures — punk, goth, skater (the new jock) — they're all diluted parodies of what was once genuine cultural initiatives. New music, new art, and new modes of thought have been brought to the malls of suburbia. There's absolutely nothing punk about punk.

And those that forego predefined styles, for the most part, lack any sort of substance. But what does that mean? If substance is spiritual in nature, and spirituality is a depth of knowing oneself. Of course, I'll hit up Wikipedia for a notion: involving (as it may) perceived eternal verities regarding humankind's ultimate nature […] Spirituality may involve perceiving life as higher, more complex or more integrated with one's world view; as contrasted with the merely sensual.

  • Style is the world view defined by an élite living out the story of that aesthetic, defining it moment to moment as it happens.

  • Thus, the substance of those with the most integrated world view and involved dialogue with their communities command and affect the subsequent style.

  • Review Aristotle's three steps or "offices" of rhetoric — invention, arrangement, and style — and three different types of rhetorical proof:

    • ethos: how the character and credibility of a speaker influence an audience to consider him to be believable.

    • pathos: the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience's judgment.

    • logos: the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument.

  • We may have elements to spread trends by the popularity or respect given by idolaters, how the experience of the styles affect the followers of the trend (socially, inter-personally, and how the individual feels when alone with their chosen styles… or do the styles define their actions?), and by context (i.e., a winter jacket is more useful in winter than that cute blouse you bought over summer… however, we still see a lot of idiots out on Whyte Avenue in their mini-skirts and other sill get-ups in the dead of winter).

Occultism is the study of the inner nature of things, as opposed to the outer characteristics that are studied by science. The inability of science and mathematics to penetrate beyond the relationship between one thing and another in order to explain the "inner nature" of the thing itself, independent of any external causal relationships with other "things" is dealt with in some detail by the German Kantian philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his treatise entitled The World as Will and Representation, in which he designates this inner nature with the term Will.

The occultist Aleister Crowley likens the approach of conventional science to the process of measuring ten yards with a stick about which we really know nothing but that it is one tenth of the ten yards in question. Every "fact" we hold true of the physical universe is merely an idea stated in relationship to other ideas, and if we try to establish any such "fact" in absolute terms we find it is impossible. If A is defined as BC, where B is DE, C is FG and so onwards the terms of dependency increase exponentially, and we even come to the point where Z is circularly defined in terms of A.

Schopenhauer also points towards this inherently relativistic nature of mathematics and conventional science in his formulation of the 'World as Will'. By defining a thing solely in terms of its external relationships or effects we only find its external, or explicit nature. Occultism, on the other hand, is concerned with the nature of the thing-in-itself. This is often accomplished through direct perceptual awareness, known as mysticism.

Mysticism from the Greek μυστικός (mystikos) "an initiate" (of the Eleusinian Mysteries, μυστήρια (mysteria) meaning "initiation") is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is an important source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Traditions may include a belief in the literal existence of realities beyond empirical perception, or a belief that a true human perception of the world transcends logical reasoning or intellectual comprehension. A person delving in these areas may be called a mystic.

In many cases, the purpose of mysticism and mystical disciplines such as meditation is to reach a state of return or re-integration to Godhead. A common theme in mysticism is that the mystic and all of reality are One. The purpose of mystical practices is to achieve that oneness in experience, to transcend limited identity and re-identify with the all that is.

Express oneself and relate one's world view to these three elements: invention, arrangement, and style. Are these the elements of culture? The difference between those that define the living culture and those that have no capacity to avoid the sway of the "mystics"?

  • An invention is an object, process, or technique which displays an element of novelty. An invention may sometimes be based on earlier developments, collaborations or ideas, and the process of invention requires at least the awareness that an existing concept or method can be modified or transformed into an invention. However, some inventions also represent a radical breakthrough in science or technology which extends the boundaries of human knowledge.

    • The classic definitions of innovation include:

      1. the process of making improvements by introducing something new

      2. the act of introducing something new: something newly introduced (The American Heritage Dictionary)

      3. the introduction of something new. (Merriam-Webster Online)

      4. a new idea, method or device. (Merriam-Webster Online)

      5. the successful exploitation of new ideas (Dept of Trade and Industry, UK)

      6. change that creates a new dimension of performance Peter Drucker (Hesselbein, 2002)

    • innovation is typically understood as the introduction of something new and useful, for example introducing new methods, techniques, or practices or new or altered products and services. One emerging approach is to use these other notions as the constituent elements of innovation as an action: Innovation occurs when someone uses an invention - or uses existing tools in a new way - to change how the world works, how people organize themselves, and how they conduct their lives.

  • Form (Lat. forma), in general, refers to the external shape, appearance, configuration of an object, in contrast to the matter or content or substance of which it is composed; thus a speech may contain excellent arguments (the matter may be good), whereas the style, grammar, arrangement (the form) may be bad. "Form is supposed to cover the shape or structure of the work; content its substance, meaning, ideas, or expressive effects."

  • The term fashion usually applies to a prevailing mode of expression, but quite often applies to a personal mode of expression that may or may not apply to all. Inherent in the term is the idea that the mode will change more quickly than the culture as a whole. The terms "fashionable" and "unfashionable" are employed to describe whether someone or something fits in with the current popular mode of expression. The term "fashion" is frequently used in a positive sense, as a synonym for glamour and style. In this sense, fashions are a sort of communal art, through which a culture examines its notions of beauty and goodness. The term "fashion" is also sometimes used in a negative sense, as a synonym for fads, trends, and materialism.

    One of the problems with the grouping of styles into genres is that it is a subjective process that has a lot to do with the individual's personal understanding.

    • Gestalt Therapy is a psychotherapy which focuses on here-and-now experience and personal responsibility. It was co-founded by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s-1950s.

      The objective of Gestalt Therapy, in addition to helping the client overcome symptoms, is to enable the her-him to become more fully and creatively alive and to be free from the blocks and unfinished issues which may diminish optimum satisfaction, fulfillment, and growth. Thus, it falls in the category of humanistic psychotherapies.

      Gestalt therapy (GT) has its roots in psychoanalysis. It was part of a continuum moving from the early work of Freud, to the later Freudian ego analysis, to Wilhelm Reich and his notion of character armor. To this was added the insights of academic gestalt psychology about perception, gestalt formation and the tendency of organisms to complete the incomplete gestalt, to form "wholes" in experience.

      There were additional influences from existentialism, particularly the I-thou relationship as it applies to therapy, and the notion of personal choice and responsibility.

Related article: Spirituality and Japanese Design Practise.
Related post: Fashion is contemporary mask magic.


Alamaine said...

While all of your points are indeed valid, there is also the idea that not all people are expected to be advanced or candidates for advancement. Thus, there are many things in the external World (IKEA, Old Navy, whathaveyou) that are intended by concept to be distractions, effectively blinding those who are not supposed to see. Desires of a material sort perform this function, whether they exist as furniture, clothing, cars, or drugs. The latter is a good example considering the "War On Drugs" has merely been a pretext for the materialists to begin to market their own chemicals, continuing the ban on cannibis (vitamins next), and being in a position to dictate through MDs how and when people will be medicinalised, dominating every substance that goes into one's body.

Free will and the options to choose remain only among those who resist, those who are, coincidentally, the ones who are the most likely (but unlikeable) candidates for being subdued and blinded by even more artificially imposed desires (start 'em young on Ritalin, e.g.).

Awareness of the need to have blinds and the blinded exposes the artifice of the numbed, damned, mundane World that is perpetuated on unrestrained desire but not for anything that has to do with the Eternal or Infinite. One can make use of the blinds and desires by consuming them to the point of banishment, leaving only a need for what is truly important. But this depends upon intent and intensity, not density.

Don said...

Well said, yo.