Why We Need Bohemia

You walk into a room that is somehow visually attractive but is clearly not the work of any decorator. There are beautiful objects, weird objects, forgotten coffee cups, and lots of things leaning against walls or tossed in stacks. The furniture is mismatched and so are the glasses. The guests are equally mismatched. One is in jeans splattered with paint, and another is in an evening gown. The person in jeans might be a woman, and the person in the gown a man. No one cares. You’re in bohemia.

Bohemia is the natural world of artists of all kinds, where there are no rules you’re expected to follow, beyond the ones of human decency, and decency has a very broad definition among the bohemian set. What you do in your own life is your business. Whatever your story is, as long as it’s not malicious, it’s probably okay.

People love bohemia, even if they don’t know it. It’s the milieu where there is no judgment about what you look like, what you’re wearing, the make of your watch, or the car you drive. What matters is what you think, what you care about, and what you enjoy. You get to be a person in the bohemian world, talking to people with no agenda. No Roberts Rules of Order. No Emily Post.

People don’t even know why they suddenly feel so relaxed in an arty house or studio. They can put their feet on the furniture, because everyone else does. There is probably no visual sign of any kind of brand or advertising anywhere, except maybe a logo on an appliance. People are bombarded daily with advertising, everywhere, especially if we are glued to our computers. We see it on the streets, get it on our phones, hear it on the radio, see it in movie theaters, pass it on the highways, read it in magazines, and see it constantly on our screens. In bohemia, there are fewer ads in your face, because bohemians don’t consume that much. It feels very, very good to get away from advertising.

If you break a glass in a bohemian household, you don’t owe the host a hundred bucks. If you spill red wine on the carpet, it won’t cause a flurry. If you just fell in love with the person next to you on the sofa, people will turn their backs and carry on conversations, leaving you in your uninterrupted moment. Just don’t damage the art.

Bohemia is like therapy. It’s an equal playing field. All the demands of our consumerist, polarized society slip away in places where artists congregate, and the principle concern is making something beautiful, or making something that conveys an idea. It’s restful, inspiring, enlivening, and infinitely more entertaining than staring at your phone. It’s especially nice to be able to slip into it and back out when you actually want a little stability, just like therapy.