Why is it that all children - and many adults - upon seeing the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films, exclaim, "I wish I could have gone to a school like that?"
Set aside the floating candles and the shifting staircases: The answer is Style.
Modern elementary schools look like factories in which people sort rags or hammer on blocks. The architecture does not inspire or announce, "This is a place where something special occurs." The same thing can be said of many business and government offices. It is as if some evil-minded administrator once decreed, "Let's put up boxes of steel and glass and squeeze the majesty out of life." No wonder workers glance longingly out the window at the trees and not at any structure. The architects have sold us a bunch of crap. Occasionally as an apology, they toss a feeble excuse for sculpture in front.
Now shift to lifestyles. We once watched Cary Grant and Grace Kelly portraying lives that elevated our hopes. They and other stars showed us how people with values and style behaved. The anti-heroes and automatons are now supreme and when an exception arrives on the screen we almost weep in gratitude. I won't even start on the dreck that passes for popular music and late night television has fallen from a place where once you might have seen Jack Paar or Dick Cavett talking to Buckley, Vidal, Mailer, or Updike to a spot where Jay and Dave let stars do infomercials for their latest film.
We have become so practical and utilitarian. I majored in "Government" as an undergraduate. Now it's called "Political Science" although it is anything but a science. The word might, however, impress the Board of Regents. Perhaps "sciences" don't get their funding slashed as quickly as the softer subjects. The same mentality that believes there is such a thing as "Social Science" doesn't flinch at using concrete boxes to house students nor does it consider just what sort of people those boxes will produce. No problem. They can join a growing tribe of pragmatic careerists that combines avarice with adolescence and scoffs at values and sacrifice.
Little things make a difference. We could use a renewed dedication to the type of conduct that elevates the individual and the society. Dropping the notions that Coarseness = Truth and Refinement = Hypocrisy and that Style is a waste of resources will be a good start.
We can have lives of beauty.
[HT: Jonathan Wade]