â€œFirst Class All the Way,â€? a Bravo reality show about a high-end â€˜conciergeâ€™ travel service for the most affluent and demanding clients, does very good work. It shows what unlimited money buys: something like perfect service, the (nearly) perfect adaptation of some stretch of life to the clientâ€™s needs, wishes, preferences, moods, and whims. Presumably, the richer one is, the more that happens.
Why is it important to see this? The engine that drives ambition is partly the quest for luxury, for that thing the rich get to have. Yet we (the outsiders) seldom see what that means in actual lives. We see glamorous moments and we see expensive stuff, but we donâ€™t see the stance toward the world that makes it all hang together: the pursuit of perfection. Yet the only way to evaluate luxury is to understand how it works as a way of life, as a kind of life.
The show says it all, and I donâ€™t want to steal its thunder. Just go watch. Hint 1: the best that the best experts can pull off in a contingent world is â€œnearly perfectâ€? service, and the distance between â€œnearly perfectâ€? and â€œperfectâ€? seems very great to people who have come to expect perfection. Hint 2: once perfection has been made a goal, it becomes also the object of a substantial amount of attention, and that attention is borrowed from immediate experience. I may appreciate my partnerâ€™s lovely skin, but I will also be rating the lighting effects and the surgical work, once the idea of perfection gets established in my repertoire.