The Emperor’s New Clothes

Originally posted 9/30/09

Two weeks ago Guy Trebay wrote an article in the New York Times Style section about the designer Murakami. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek look at the affectations of trendy design world characters and how silly they can be. In fact, it’s a modern day telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Reading the article, my reflections might have ended with a knowing laugh. It’s easy to point at some people and comfort ourselves — after all, we aren’t ridiculous. But, how many of us are driven by our own ‘new clothes’? Maybe it’s the new car, a resume-worthy job, the right husband, the child who says a sweet ‘thank you’ to everyone. It’s tricky…many of these things are “good for us.” So why is it that when we get them, we still don’t feel happy?

The problems arise when we reference the outside world — parents, teachers, bosses, media — without checking in with our own values. Something may be great, but not for us, or not at the right time. Going ahead in spite of a conflicted inner voice tramples our values. That leaves us unhappy.

Like diet and exercise, knowing the values that make us happy day in and day out takes a lot of work. It’s not something we decide once and stay with for the rest of our lives. It takes discipline, awareness and occasional updating. But in this version, the nakedness is welcome.

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