One thing that strikes me on returning to America is how much garbage is on sale. Every city and town is covered with malls and shopping centers. Some of this stuff is more expensive than other stuff, but oddly, almost none of it is actually of high quality. The expensive stuff at the high-dollar mall in Atlanta is better than the cheap stuff at the truck stop, but it still isn't of the best quality.

It's not just that you can buy a better hat than you can buy at the mall; it's that the hat is so much better than what they sell that it's not in the same class. If you need a hat, then, you'd not go to any of these stores -- not malls, not truck stops, not shopping centers, not any place where you can buy things in person. You'd order it online or by mail from a craftsman.

You see people in these stores shopping with great intensity -- women in particular. I don't wonder at the teenagers or the twenty-somethings buying clothes, because presumably they are still establishing a wardrobe. However, you see women far older than that shopping with the same intensity. They must have closets full of clothes already.

I occasionally buy new clothes, when old ones wear out. That doesn't seem to be the reason they are buying these clothes, though; and in any event, the clothes are of the same low-quality as everything else. You can buy well-made dresses and tailored suits, but not here; and if you want rugged work clothes for knocking around in, these are not for that either.

What they appear to be doing is not searching for clothes, but searching for meaning. They are searching for a way to look that will make them feel a certain way. It is as if they think that looking and feeling a different way might make them actually be what they want.

The clothes need to be cheap and disposable, because the feelings change so quickly -- tomorrow she may need a different feeling, another skirt. The expensive ones are merely targeted at a wealthier market: for that market, they are just as disposable.

That is why they buy so many clothes, and why the clothes are so poorly made. The thing being bought is not the physical object at all. They are only talismans, like the hair of a frog. The real thing desired is the spell they want to work: the transformation, for a moment, into something else.

We spoke a while ago about the use of aesthetics to renew society. If you can capture the aesthetic in music and art, you can renew the world: but if you can then capture it also in clothes, you might be able to reach this entire group of people.

This also solves the funding issue, as large cultural movements require vast sums of money.

Now what we need is the poet, the artist, and the designer. What is the vision of beauty that they might chase, long enough for us to begin to introduce them to these better ways? For beauty underlies everything -- it is the vision of beauty that you follow that defines you.

It is also there -- in the consistent pursuit of a vision -- that the real transformation is possible. These pieces of poorly-made fluff have a power, if they are linked to a vision that can make you chase it far enough. A man who chases questing beasts, or fairy maids, will often find himself in elfland. So it is with other visions, if you dare to chase them far enough.

What, then, is the vision? Or are there several? What would move you in the right direction, and might move others? It is important to think about this, because it is the starting place.

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