The Meaning of Life

There is the dream of an alternate aesthetic, of a world in which aestheticized experience worked only on things that were ordinary, local, small, repetitive, and recalcitrant, on things that really did happen to most of us in the everyday. This would imply a challenge to drama as we know it. Would it be too much to ask for books in which there is no conflict and no disaster but mere daily occurrences, strung together by the calm being who notices them; television shows on which people sit around silently noticing one another, watch sunsets, type, chat, cook meals without teaching the viewer how, and go about their business in the dull but reassuring knowledge that nothing is going to be very different than the day before? Could there be repetition in a state of grace? Could there be “aesthetic” representation, for those for whom the worldly anaesthetic had worn off, while the systematic ideologies seemed too inhuman and restrictive? Could people live a life in the garden, in our world with its many technologies?

What would remain would not be drama, or “experience,” but life. Perhaps there is a way back to life, in people’s tentative steps in the interstices of this world, if they cannot live on its grid. Circling life from the cluttered outside, one asks its meaning again and again. How to get back to it: by aestheticizing everything, as before, to explode the questing aesthetic? By anaesthetic efforts, as imagined in this essay, to cut down experiences to neutral occurrences incapable of being made over as drama? Meaning starts to seem a perverse thing to ask for, when what we are really asking is what life is when it is not already made over in forms of quest or deferral. Could this life be reached — unmediated? Would there be anything there when we found it?

— From n+1, Anaesthetic Ideology, The Meaning of Life, by Mark Greif