November 25, 2018

Is Gustave Doré's "Saintly throng in the shape of a rose" the source material for the illustration for the NYT article "Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us"?

In Dante's "Paradiso" the souls in Heaven form a rose:
Dante sees an enormous rose, symbolising divine love, the petals of which are the enthroned souls of the faithful (both those of the Old Testament and those of the New). All the souls he has met in Heaven, including Beatrice, have their home in this rose. Angels fly around the rose like bees, distributing peace and love. Beatrice now returns to her place in the rose, signifying that Dante has passed beyond theology in directly contemplating God, and St. Bernard, as a mystical contemplative, now guides Dante further (Canto XXXI).
The 19th century illustrator Gustave Doré visualized the rose like this:



Here's the NYT article (by Ruth Whippman), "Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us. The constant pressure to sell ourselves on every possible platform has produced its own brand of modern anxiety."
Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.

Being sold to can be socially awkward, for sure, but when it comes to corrosive self-doubt, being the seller is a thousand times worse. The constant curation of a salable self demanded by the new economy can be a special hellspring of anxiety.

Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently “maintaining a presence on social media,” attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time....
There's no explanation of how the illustrator, Tim Enthoven, developed his image, which I like very much and like even more if it's an intentional invocation of Doré's saintly throng:



Go to the article for a full-size version. The article is quite good and worth spending one of your free NYT views on, even without the bonus of the illustration. I love the inclusion of a Golden Retriever in the modern-day saintly throng.

I especially welcome comments that go deeply into the analogy of souls the internet — as visualized by Whippman and Enthoven — with the souls in Heaven — as visualized by Dante and Doré.

Whippman has a book, "America the Anxious: Why Our Search for Happiness Is Driving Us Crazy and How to Find It for Real."

And here's Tim Enthoven's Instagram page.

49 comments:

mccullough said...

The newer image evokes the swirl of the flushing toilet. We are all pieces of shit.

tim in vermont said...

Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.

It’s weird, I don’t know anybody like that. I know people with hobbies, but they don’t strike me as “hustles.” I guess if you are a trout, fly fishing probably seems like a dank hustle.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Blogger mccullough said...

The newer image evokes the swirl of the flushing toilet


Yes-- looks like the SS Tidy Bowl capsized

Meade said...

Email inbox: "Cyber Monday starts now. Save 50% on a year of unlimited digital access."

Cyber Monday starts now on Sunday.

tcrosse said...

It's what we used to call the Rat Race. A person can opt out.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Your soul is you, not you as you present yourself to others and are perceived by them.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Meade wrote
Cyber Monday starts now on Sunday.
Last Monday my email inbox informed me that it was the beginning of Black Friday Week.

Henry said...

Did anyone pick up on the Douglas Adams reference (almost surely unintentional)?

[A]n endless Black Friday of the soul is a nicely comic metaphor, but it's been used before, almost to the same purpose:

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a 1988 humorous fantasy detective novel by Douglas Adams. It is the second book by Adams featuring private detective Dirk Gently, the first being Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The title is a phrase that appeared in Adams' novel Life, the Universe and Everything to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, and is a play on the theological treatise Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross.

Bored with the wretched boredom of the infinite Internet?

The most recent BBC America reboot of Douglas Adam's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is fantastic television. With two seasons and 18 episodes on Netflix It will drive off darkness for 16 hours or so.

bonkti said...

Dante used the sun as an allegory for God's love. The modern image has nothing to see at its center.Yet it seems to exert great attraction. Social media as a black hole.

Darrell said...

I read "saintly thong" at first glance.

Darrell said...

The NYT may be for sale but nobody's buying.

glenn said...

Key words? “Everybody I Know”.

Henry said...

Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently “maintaining a presence on social media,” attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time.

I'd like to rewrite this from the point of view of a corporation.

Like many modern companies, I find that only a small percentage of my workers are actually producing my product. The rest are perform a million acts of very expensive specialization that add up to many full-time jobs in themselves. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. I mean sales and marketing. As a inhuman entity, I am ambivalent about my "presence on social media", this semi-fictional, much more appeal version of myself, but I'm assured that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time.

Don't even get me started on HR.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Ruth Whippman wrote this depressing article.The bottom blurb says: "Ruth Whippman is the author of “America the Anxious: Why Our Search for Happiness Is Driving Us Crazy and How to Find It for Real.”"

Ms. Whippman thinks that it is a shame that people only seem to relate one another on a commercial level.
But what did we have before capitalism? Pre-capitalism human relations were done through the church (discredited), the family (discredited), marriage (discredited).

A person I know nothing about wants me to do him or her a favor that costs me some effort. On what basis, other than money, am I supposed to agree to do this favor?

Fernandistein said...

It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.

That authorette sure has me pegged, even though it's just psychological projection on her part.

Hey everybody, I just put up a boring youtube video, please watch it and like it! Or the snail gets it thru the head.

Meanwhile, no billiards table in heaven.

robother said...

The ceaseless activity described by the writer seems more like the demonic buzzing of the bees among the saintly rosebuds. Or as Darrell might see it, a case of the crabs in the saintly thong.

rhhardin said...

The soul is the connection to others, as far as normal usage (not dogmatic or theological) goes. Why not the internet.

Should we be anxious about anxiety though. That's what newspapers sell.

rhhardin said...

The theological soul is parasitic on the social-connection soul. A poeticization of it.

Ficta said...

Are they saints or sinners? The anxieties described in the text make me wonder if Dore's illustrations for the Lustful and Paolo and Francesca, helplessly driven by the winds, weren't a reference. But they're not in a closed circle, so maybe not.

Darkisland said...


Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself.

This sentence doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps I need to read the article but why ruin a nice weekend?

From what Ann posts, it sounds like the person has a job with a paycheck. It also sounds like all these microtasks are performed on the employer's time. So how are they unpaid for these tasks?

Perhaps someone with enough patience to read the article can explain.

John Henry

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger rhhardin said...
The soul is the connection to others, as far as normal usage (not dogmatic or theological) goes.

One would think that our connection to others would be our connection to others, not our soul.

Saint Croix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

One would think that our connection to others would be our connection to others, not our soul.

"He has no soul." It's a token in language for accounts of something less defined that's about interactions.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The newer image evokes the swirl of the flushing toilet. .......

Yup. That is what I see as well.

Both images evoke the idea of a whirlpool. Trapped in an ever circling, swirling force of water.

Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently “maintaining a presence on social media,” attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time.

If you are doing all this shit on company time, you should be fired.

tcrosse said...

Hop aboard the Soul Train.

Howard said...

Shorter version: Life is tough when you don't educate yourself to do something useful

Howard said...

The illustration is lacking the Ty-D-Bol man in his tiny motorboat

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Souls in heaven vs. souls on the internet: It's interesting that Dante's picture of heaven raises questions as to how great it would be. Hamsters on a wheel? Dante comes down to us as the great articulator of Catholic dogma, including purgatory and limbo--you'd better get your act together. But Limbo in Dante seems about as good as a place can get if you actually like to think--you get to talk to Aristotle, "master of all those who know." Are there any books or ideas in Heaven? Also Dante seems to match every sin to the exactly appropriate punishment, but he adds his own ideas about who deserves what (in come cases contrary to Church teaching) suggesting 1. He questions whether the Church has got it right--the pagan view of virtues related to patriotism may have been superior and 2. Matching sins to penalties may be a game anyone can play. People who spend a lot of time on the internet may be engaged in a joyless quest for joy. They may have swapped a world of strong feelings for a few people--sometimes hate mixed with love, as in family--for a world of uniform tepid feelings, sometimes penetrated by anger or laughter--among a virtually infinite number of strangers.

stevew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stevew said...

"Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project."

Ms. Whippman needs to expand her circle of acquaintances and friends. I suppose I do too because, like tim, almost everyone I know isn't doing some kind of side hustle or vanity project.

I bumped into this, by John Allison, in a short article about the argument for the establishment of personal liberty in society: "In order to achieve happiness, in the Aristotelian context of a life well lived, one must have a sense of purpose and exhibit certain virtues—rationality, independent thinking, productivity, honesty, integrity, pride, justice—in the pursuit of one's long-term self-interest.". Note that all of these acts and virtues are self-created.

Whippman's search for the source and means of human happiness may yet lead her back to the great philosophers. Clearly this search, and perceived absence, is not a new one.

RK said...

Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself.

I know someone whose job is public affairs/outreach for an organization. Social media stuff, like tweets and blog posts, is part of the job.

But for most modern workers, reading Facebook on the job is just wasting your employer's time.

roger said...

"Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently “maintaining a presence on social media,” attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time."

Thousands of Appalachian coal miners are laughing at such idiocy and nonsense. I don't know anyone who does this type of crap for work.

RK said...

"Almost everyone I know ___" [insert something that demonstrates how isolated New York Times writers are]

Sebastian said...

"I love the inclusion of a Golden Retriever"

Yes, it nicely illustrates how our search for happiness is driving us crazy.

From Beatrice to Badger: behold our descent as we whirl around the void.

anti-de Sitter space said...

Althouse likes images that are vortex-y?

Shocking.



P.S. it could be argued that this place more scolex than vortex?

IMHO.

Jack Wayne said...

Don’t know the age of the artist but when I saw his work, I thought of Logan’s Run, not Dante.

dgstock said...

Somewhat resembles one of Dore’s engraving for Canto V, the carnal sinners, buffeted on wings of lust. But the dog?

tim in vermont said...

“Dark night of the soul” goes way way back and Douglas Adams was making a literary reference with that title. It’s amazing how everything old not only is new again, but was only born yesterday.

Seeing Red said...

No one put a gun to her head about social media. Get off it.

Henry said...

If you are doing all this shit on company time, you should be fired.

What she's talking about is marketing. I know enough artists to know that if you want to exhibit, people have to know your name. You don't get shows by anonymously sending slides to galleries or entering contests.

Schmoozing used to be about going to the right openings (of other artists' work) and finagling invites to the right parties. It's still about that, but now it is also about social media.

The best spin I've read about this -- a good mindset to tackle such soul-numbing work -- is that a literary or art scene depends on the engagement of a broad community of artists, dealers / publishers, reporters / critics, and (the smallest group) buyers. You get shows by joining and supporting a community.

Good sales people know that their job is more than schmoozing as well.

Rusty said...

bonkti @ 9:01
Not a black hole but a blank space. A meh. a nothing. A timewaster while more important things are being ignored, We circle this thing demanding that it add while all the time it only detracts.

EDH said...

The authors describe this new-normal mind-set as a “sense of self overwhelmed by pathological worry and a fear of negative social evaluation.” Hmm. Maybe I should make that my personal brand story. --Ruth Whippman is the author of “America the Anxious: Why Our Search for Happiness Is Driving Us Crazy and How to Find It for Real.”

Indeed, watching the Clintons and Obamas of this world simply backing the truck up to be filled with money doing their new "side gigs", sucking all the oxygen out of the air while marketing their "virtue" must fire the envy in these status-oriented people.

So, of course, they lash-out at Trump.

Presumably someone was making money from this venture — some proto-Trump barking orders from his tax haven...

wildswan said...

The Inferno in Dante is a downward spiral but the spiral is not in motion. It is nine circles connected by pathways or river crossings or descents down cliffs. Each circle is smaller than the one before. (There are several Popes in several different circles suffering appropriately. Hmmm.) The general lack of motion is probably a comment on sin and punishment though sometimes utterly pointless motion such as pushing heavy rocks around a circle is the punishment. One circle has people standing in sewage, up to their ankles, up to their necks etc. But before the circle area comes an area where angels who did not choose either God or the Devil in the Great Rebellion and souls that refused to choose any goal in life endlessly chase a flag racing ahead of them. So that is where this New Yorker seems to be.

In my opinion, you simply cannot look to a job to supply all that in other ages was supplied by a religion, a family and a country. A job, any job, means more if you maintain your values - do a day's work for day's pay, avoid spite and malice, do not steal. Maybe higher things can be there for teachers, police and such. But still you can't ask it to be religion, love, morality, patriotism, poetry, history, children and personal affirmation. Though socialists sometimes say that it is that, it isn't. And especially not sales.

Zach said...

Douglas Adams was making a literary reference with that title.

It's a very clever reference, though. He's saying that spiritual torment has been replaced by boredom -- that a long night of agony has been replaced by the dullness of teatime on a rainy afternoon when there's nothing on television.

That's a pretty nuanced argument to make with just a title.

Lydia said...

That NY Times illustration made me think of a poster from the 1920s, The Lure of the Underground.

Earnest Prole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earnest Prole said...

DeFeo is famous for a single work, a gargantuan painting — nearly 12 feet tall — called ‘The Rose,’ which she labored on exhaustingly for eight years. The piece was, among many other things, a Sisyphean act of self-editing, a process carried out day after day, applying pigment, scraping it off, adding more, all the while carving into an ever-thickening surface to create the equivalent of sculptural relief.”

“At first, it was called Deathrose. DeFeo began working on the painting in 1958 and did not stop until eight years later. The name change might be taken as suggestion that The Rose came alive, ceased, in the course of its development, to speak to death, or, more precisely, to death alone. At least some of the interest of the work—of DeFeo’s oeuvre as a whole—lies in the way it excavates the territory between Eros and Thanatos. The rose is, in Greek mythology, associated with Aphrodite, who is often shown with roses garlanding her hair. It is the flower that most readily stands in for the female body, for female sexuality. But DeFeo’s Rose is not the bloom of purity, not the blush of first desire. It is more vagina dentata, an alluring but dangerous trap, a pleasure and a menace.”

narciso said...

Looks like one of dr. Stranges spell circles.

Carl said...

Carousel! Now is the time for renewal.