Fame, fashion, future

Imagine, waking every morning, and having to pretend you are Karl Lagerfeld, again. Worse than that, being Karl Lagerfeld, so there can be no holiday. I will not say it was “a fate worse than death,” for I’m not dead yet, and don’t know what that’s like. But as living fates go, my sympathies were entirely with the man. Imagine, each morning, having to put on the uniform, like a doorman or old-fashioned lift attendant. Not just the uniform but having always something graceful and polite to say. Well, I can understand why he never rose to that lift-attendant standard.

I suppose lift attendants were retired, because no one could rise to that standard any more. I am myself notorious for saying things on elevators that are, shall we say, “ironical” — in reply to some conventional remark about, say, the weather. Perhaps I could be taught to just nod and smile. I’m already fairly good at pressing buttons. But the uniform would surely defeat me.

Fame, as ersatz immortality, appeals to some. I have known men — even some women — devoted to becoming famous, in the spirit of the “Renaissance.” All, therefore, became actors, in the Hollywood mode, where you play the same character, movie after movie. The less imaginative never tire of it. I think of one auld acquaintance still playing his part, in what looks like old age. Sadly, he never became famous.

The standards for vanity have been falling, like everything else these last fifty years. Or, these last five hundred. I mentioned the Renaissance — the common term for an historical epoch, though entirely a construct of the pigeon imagination, which longs for its pigeon hole. But the late Mr Lagerfeld had the vanity I associate with heroic stature. “Brave” would be the Elizabethan term — a time when the word was not necessarily associated with courage. A brave man in those days was ostentatiously dressed. He cut a fine figure. Stout-hearted, perhaps, if I follow the etymology. (Ultimately, I think, from the Latin barbarus.) Grand, splendid, with a hint of the untamed. Think bravo! — think bravado — related terms we also filched from Spain.

But one must move fast, in the dance of fashion: a rumba, a salsa, cha cha cha. I am not against it. The skirts rise, but they also fall; the tempo quickens, but it also slows. Each turn can be fashionable, for a season. And when the season ends, the circle is complete. The latest mania has been exhausted.


I cannot say, that my opposition to “evolutionism” is growing, for that would be to express it in an evolutionary way. And it would be wrong: for when I look back over the history of my opinions, I see no forward motion at all. Rather, it is another kind of growth, a filling out. An idea formed in me, almost certainly in childhood, has rooted and branched. The connexions become more apparent, between one thought and another. Is this leading somewhere? That is something I can’t know, as nothing can be now known, of the future. And even our knowledge of the past falters.

Gentle reader may be aware that I oppose “progress.” The question, what do I mean by this, could still be asked. The word means many things, depending on context, and for instance I am not against walking, A to B. That is “a progress.” Verily, I love a parade (I love a dance, too, if the truth be told), provided that it is unlike a riot.

But the idea of some abstract parade, a “march of humanity,” fills me with dread and revulsion. It is a forced march, to nowhere.

The deadly neurosis, that governs modern men — this compulsion to some invisible earthly future — is enemy to life, and even to pleasure. We demand “evolution” and “progress” as ends in themselves. We will run, launch, rise. But a fashion runway leads only to the bathroom.