Video channels featuring mid-century American automobiles have been showing up in my YouTube feeds the past few weeks. I’m guessing that the algorithm has “noticed” that I search for mid-century items, in general, so why not include cars? I clicked on several of the videos, so I suppose I’m stuck with having 1950s car video suggestions for awhile.
The most noticeable aspect of the cars of the 1950s is their evolution, or devolution, of impractical style elements appearing on car bodies simply for adornment sake. Most notable are fins and jet aircraft inspired chrome trim. The culmination of trim simply for the sake of adding trim happened to the 1958 model year of cars. General Motors brands are the worst examples of purposeless styling. In my opinion, the cars look clumsy and downright ugly. I should probably be careful about this judgment because there are many car fans who strongly disagree with my assessment.
A prime example as to where General Motors went astray is the Oldsmobile lineup from 1958. The kitchiness lies between the less tacky Chevrolet and the terribly overdone 1958 Buick (which is noteworthy for it’s fussy, hard to clean grill). Anyway, just feast your eyes upon the “more restrained” Oldsmobile two-door hardtop sedan. What were the stylists thinking? There are no actual purposes for most of the car’s fanciful, jet airplane shapes.
Some of our artifacts have clearly defined purposes. A saw is used to cut solid materials. A skillet’s purpose is to prepare meals. Shoes are meant to protect feet. Other stuff seems to exist just for novelty sake and are highly impractical–such as the tailfins and chrome gingerbread on 1958 model year cars. In the end, the purposeless auto trim goes out of style and is remembered for its novelty, while the skillet is used to prepare our lunch.
The theme of purposelessness appears in more philosophical human terms, too. In such instances, this aspect affects the lives of individuals and life choices. We notice this theme showing up in the writings of 20th century critics. With the onset of the modern technological age, came the feelings of purposeless existence that continues to afflict many people to this day.
“27 Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece. 28 An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends. 29 Wickedness loves company, and leads others into sin.”–Proverbs 16:27-29 Living Bible
People work at jobs that seem to have no meaning. We buy stuff in order to keep the economy healthy. The spiritual void allows room for destructive thinking and action. Passionate social and political beliefs appear to provide meaning and purpose to empty lives. Hatred, in particular, is the easiest passion to arouse. When someone succumbs to this temptation, she appears to herself as dedicating herself to a holy cause. By nourishing fanatical grievances within groups of like-minded individuals mass movements present opportunities to find purpose, albeit negative and destructive.
Less socially harmful impacts of purposeless societies manifest when people gravitate towards mindless pursuits and time wasters as a way to make up for the lack of purposeful goals. Many aspects of contemporary life are like the tailfins and chrome gingerbread on 1958 cars. We aimlessly participate out of boredom. This shows up in my life as reflexively clicking on videos about mid-century automobiles.
What is the purpose of this short editorial? It’s mainly to share my opinions and observations about modern living.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a quote from scholar and conservative intellectual, Richard M. Weaver. “The typical modern has the look of the hunted.”