Tom Godwin was having a big ol’ rant on Twitter recently:
“Someone should coin a word for this trend for ultra privileged faux “goodness” brands. Things like Soul Cycle / the Assemblage/ Sweetgreen/ Dirty Lemon. The kind of super expensive, pretend purpose-driven, fake egalitarian quadrant on a Boston matrix made by cynical rich folk.”
Ah. So we apparently we have a lot of rich folk spending their money on indulgences.
Note the word, “indulgences”. Nowadays we mean that to be a wee treat, a wee flutter, a little bit of harmless sinning to offset all the virtuous stuff we do the rest of the week.
But its original meaning stems from the Middle Ages, as large bribes rich people gave the priesthood, in order to carry God’s favor.
Married your cousin? Killed your brother and stole his crown? Betrayed your friend in order to get your nephew a job with the bishop instead of him? Burned a city to the ground instead of paying back the citizens the money you owe them? No problem. Just pay the Cardinal a visit, make your confession and write a check. Your sins are forgiven. Bada Bing!
Sounds a bit dodgy, a bit hypocritical, right? But that’s how the government (i.e. the Church) made most of its money back then. That, and the sale of (mostly equally dodgy) holy relics.
As faith in our old institutions (government, church, community, commerce, the university, etc) dissipate, we reach out for new certainties, or at least, new pleasures.
i.e. in the absence of old gods, to fill the void we pamper ourselves. And at the same time, we keep our consciences clear by giving it a spiritual dimension (hence all the Zen, Hindu and New Age borrowing that the luxury brands seems so fond of).
Regardless of what religion you have (or don’t have), regardless of how secular our societies become, our lives are greatly driven and informed by our spiritual longings.
We may not get the answers we want, there may even be no answers to be had, regardless, the human condition doesn’t change.
Does it create lots of opportunities for scammers and charlatans? Of course. But it also creates a lot of opportunities for good people to do good works. The choice, as always, is ours.