Salon 49 Lightness

Lightness is beautiful. It is the image of grace, agility, luminosity, the essence of buoyant clouds and billowing silks. It is good for the spirit and good for the environment. In theory, the lighter an object is, the less energy it consumes during its existence and the lighter its impact is. Nonetheless, even apparently immaterial things carry a burden, at times a heavy one. The Internet’s illusion of weightlessness—human activities, objects, and interactions dissolving into bits and traveling through the air—crashes when confronted by the heavy ecological footprint necessary to sustain its infrastructure.

In its tantalizing aesthetics, lightness can obfuscate the harm it conceals, blurring judgment and growing into an unhealthy fetish. Even the lightness of being epitomized by the novelist Milan Kundera––a freedom of spirit unencumbered by the ballast of reality and negativity that weigh most humans down––becomes unbearable as perceiving one’s life without the weight of meaning can lead to feelings of debilitating triviality and inconsequence.

Some of the questions that ask include: Is lightness inherently better than weightiness? What is stronger, a lighter or a heavier material? And what about living things? Are lighter beings more resilient? Can a focus on lightness help us to address the climate crisis? Does lightness imply a lack of thoughtfulness? Are there moments in which a heavy burden is welcome? What drives contemporary culture’s fetishization of lightness, from “heroin chic” to Ozempic? Is the awareness of one’s irrelevance freeing, or a burden unto itself?

This Salon took place on June 18th, 2024.


Video Contributors

Reading List


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