Saturday, December 14, 2002

"Chronological snobbery," complacency, and The Simpsons
Revisiting my daydream last week on Jefferson and postmodernism... First, on a lighter note from a recent re-run of The Simpsons, in which Moe opens a bar and is asked about his abstract art.

"It's po-mo." Blank looks all around.
"Ya know, postmodern?" Blank looks.
"OK, it's weird for the sake of weird." Everybody nods and voices acknowledgment.

Will's responses are always poignant, and his latest dispatch from Beijing is no exception:
I think the thing about postmoderns is that they _think_ they're better than their ancestors. C. S. Lewis called this "chronological snobbery." Deconstructionism, which for me is the most articulate (if such a thing is possible) postmodern thought, has taught that nothing is sacred, or at least that nothing is immune from being made unsacred. That which is sacred, if you lean on it too hard, will soon become unsacred. In essence, our view of the past is not something we inherit, but something we create -- we impose meaning on it, because by itself it is a huge, lifeless void. All life is like that. God did not give us a wonderful universe premade -- he gave us the potential for such a thing, but he left the creating up to us. We've known this intuitively since time immemorial, I think, but not until people like Marx came along and made us aware of what we call "culture" actually is did we think it over consciously. We wrote novels, poems, and plays, we philosophized and scienced, we sang and danced our way through life without thinking why; we just knew life was so much better with them. We accepted the authority of the Bible without thinking why, really -- we knew authority was something good. Now we know that all human beings are under the influence of some controlling narrative -- ie, an ideology -- and that God made us that way and gave us one perfectly suited to us -- the Bible. If we are on stronger ground now, it is not our gadgets that did it for us. Postmodernism is proof of God's unflagging attention toward us, and his desire to shake us out of our complacency that we, like moths to the flame, go back to again and again.

Earlier: Thought of the Day: the ontological privilege of the postmodernist?

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