Is Aesthetic Materialism a Joke?
One has not grasped aesthetic materialism until one takes it both very seriously, and more importantly, as a joke. Like the best jokes, its paradoxical structure is beguiling in the sense that it is not - quite - a contradiction. It is not a contradiction, but it is difficult to see quite how it is not a contradiction. "Materialism" sounds very serious indeed, but "aesthetic" makes it seem as if it is not quite serious, not altogether serious, that there is some lightness in there, some light in there. We smell aesthetics coming, and we say, "Just what are you trying to pull, here?"
"Goth" contains, in a single word, all of the same paradoxes. What is a goth, other than a person who has found light in darkness? It may seem a little strange to call a goth a materialist, but when one sticks "aesthetic" onto it... well... then it almost seems quite interchangeable to speak of "aesthetic materialism" or "aesthetic spirituality". What difference does it make, if it is only an aesthetic? One might as well say that one is in a materialist mood. But then again, what precisely does it lack? Commitment? Will? Determination? But aren't these emotional qualities, subjective qualities, existential stances, romantic heroic ideals, ...ultimately matters of aesthetics? Or is there a material difference?
And then comes the punchline: it turns out aesthetic materialism is more serious than the other kind of materialism.
To be an aesthetic materialist implies not only a recognition of the things of this world, but a commitment to the things of this world.
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