Wednesday, January 11, 2006

i have developed an amazing knack for wasting time on the internet. today, i decided to see what the big fuss of my space was about. it was, as i supposed, gross. it struck me as very trashy... i decided to see what the kids i graduated from high school with were up to. it didn't take long for me to realize that i really don't care. it was as though there was either a competition for the most obscure\ridiculous tag line and\or the shiniest, most magnificent cleavage. it felt a lot like high school.
it got me thinking about postmodernism, whatever that is. i was reading some artworld magazine a couple of weeks ago... and it was referring to a certain artist's work as reactionary. as if most art is not reactionary. it was clearly being used to imply a sense of negativity to the work. i suppose that we as a society, a group of generations living here, now, are still knee-deep in the postmodern era. i attempted an abbreviated web-search of the meaning of postmodernism... and it was very ironic. i don't like irony, and don't like postmodernism. so i probably approached the subject with a narrow, modernistic attitude.
if anyone is still reading this thing... please help me to understand, seriously, correct me, because i am sure that i am wrong... but if i'm not then i understand that everyone is at once right and wrong. that the nature of postmodernism is indefinable because there is no underlying truth. the world, social structure and norms are only as you perceive them.
this kid, jesse, from high school, i couldn't stand him. he had this theory that everything in the world was only a figment of his imagination. when he ceased to think about them, they ceased to exist. i am pretty sure that this perception of reality is inherent to children, aged birth-7, and brat teenagers who do too many drugs. but, according to what i understand as the basic tenets of postmodernism, that is exactly what reality is made of.
the term postmodern is itself pure reaction. if you function in society at all- you will react. if you function physically, you react. you react to your bodies dependence on oxygen and water by breathing and drinking.
but there are those who spend most of their existence in a constant state of reaction, of competition, tearing down. i consider reaction a negative and consuming process. a near-opposite of creation.
i took a break, because i was going to try to tackle my own defense and consolation of art. the concept haunts me. i'm not even an artist in any conventional sense, but i obsess over the concept to no end. i started by reading The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn (I would start with a Modernist). The book has been helpful, but the thing that has provided the greatest mental jerky is a quote he borrowed from Francis Bacon:
Some there have been, who have made a passage for themselves and their own opinions by pulling down and demolishing former ones; and yet all their stir has but yet little advanced the matter, since their aim has been not to extend philosophy and the arts in substance and value, but only to... transfer the kingdom of opinion to themselves.
"transfer the kingdom of opinion to themselves..." it's like music. sad, terrible music, as it sums up so clearly, so succinctly, my own perception of the state of the shared mentality of an entire era in the history of the western world.
Reaction, for the sake of creativity, for the sake of living philosophy, reaction as a foundation is pure destruction. living and perceiving in a state of anti-truth is a soul and community destroying mechanism. it can do nothing but deepen rifts, further alienate individuals and tear apart the remnants of functioning society.


Bryan Tarpley said...

i can't say that i've studied postmodernism enough to say anything intelligent about it, so i'll say something ignorant about it instead so that i can shift a little bit of the kingdom of opinion my way :)

it is very true that postmodernism is based on reaction. the initial reaction, of course, was to modernism. modernism culminated in the concept of absolute truth and it was deadly exclusive: "if i am absolutely right, then you are completely wrong." the reaction to this was to humbly concede that no one can know the absolute truth for one of two reasons: religiously speaking, knowing absolute truth would mean that you could somehow capture and understand God, which is theological suicide. scientifically speaking, discoveries such as heisenberg's uncertainty principle tell us that we can't even determine location, speed, and vector of an electron at any given point in time. i guess all of this puts absolute truth behind some kind of fog where the outlines are sufficiently discernable, but there is ample wiggle room. this is why movements like the emergent church are becoming more ecumenical in practice.

i think the branch of postmodernism which embraces a complete absence of absolute truth, however, and uses it to create their own bubbles of reality is evil, extreme, twisted, and spiritually unhealthy.

Sunny said...

ah... that really does help. i hate to have such a negative attitude about the matter. if you want, i would love to hear more about the emergent church. i have my own ideas, and i have read blue like jazz. is there more to read? i tried Buck Naked Faith and i couldn't get past the first chapter... the author was so. so much like too many christian writers- writers who write from a place where they have all the answers- how they were so bad and then they were good. i loved, LOVED donald miller's constant revelation that although there is a conversion- we are still completely mired in our sin. we are forgiven and we don't have to indulge in any self-flagellation when we've screwed up. i love the growth, the movement in his message, as opposed to the kind of walking through a door of redemption analogy that alienates so many people that feel more like a work in progress.
yeah... would love to hear more about what's going on with the emergent church.