There’s something to that recurring theme in Star Trek episodes where a reality is built out of some bad novel or discarded piece of 20th century Americana. Star Trek forces us to confront pulp fiction and the design of V-Ger’s golden pack-ins, and to imagine what it would be like to be stuck in the world of a cheap paperback, where all that fluff is forced to make sense, where every plot-hole is stitched together. They don’t so much encourage us to take a second look at the creative and design choices in our world as they rub our noses in our sloppy design.
I once read a book in which the author explained trying not to experience any creative work without also setting aside time to properly consider and digest that work. Be it in gallery, theater, screen or paper, he wanted to keep his mind sharp, wring the last drops of critical pleasure from his free time, and to hold the art he interacted with to a higher standard. The idea was not just to judge the work, but to wrestle with it and all the things it conveyed — to think about how the work was made and in what context, to think about the context in which I received the work. As the book was written in the early 1980s, it also contained no small amount of glib and strident moralizing, but the project of maintaining mindfulness toward creative works stuck with me.
This is the sort of idea that gets me really excited and, a week or two later, exhausted. It also makes me the sort of person nobody really wants to talk to, and fewer people would want to live with.