What happens after postmodernism?

Looking ahead to some end point , whether it be actual, ideological, or abstract could be the spoil of man. There has never been an end, or final point, nor has there ever been an ultimate answer. The postmodernist knows this well, yet he too seems preoccupied by this matter, often too busy criticizing the modernist to ever ask- what now? It (postmodernism) is less of a world view or philosophy than it is a deconstruction, and offers no alternative other than “that one is false.” It is a world of subjectivity, and yet I feel that the argument “there is no bigger picture, we cannot know” and “we can know there is a bigger picture” only misses the point.

For, what if we accept that we can never reach some ultimate end, and all of our time, our 10,000 years of civilization, trying new and different things, have not led us into progression but rather merely “different” approaches, a horizontal view of evolution? We would be a post modernist, to some extent. But, it seems the postmodernist then is content to settle at this point. I see another view as a possibility. To accept that we can never “become” something “out there” in the projected future (as past ideologies have posited) is fine, but what then are we left with? Perhaps the process of “becoming” and not “to become (enter ideal here)” is more important. The act of creation in itself, which will happen no matter what, rather than a means to an end might be realized. What if the act of creating purpose, of bringing forth ideas, understanding, without the need to project it into future became commonplace? History, it seems, has been a cycle of attempting to actualize ideals, bringing forth creation to some ultimate end (happiness, stability, peace, understanding, utopia, etc). We have always been in the act of creation– but perhaps that’s it! The very act of becoming, of being is the one thing we have been doing all along. We don’t need to change our ideal, rather, our attitude about this subjectivity can radically shift.

As an example- when we play music, is the end note the most important part, or is the act of playing itself most important- most real? Isn’t the body of the work the point of it? To play, to dance, to create, the act in itself has more importance than the finished product. Yet, so many of our philosophical ideas attempt to abstract, to project our life’s purpose into some end product “out there.” With life, with careers, with education– level after level, to some grander scheme. Yet, there never seems to be a final point. And perhaps that’s the point. There is no “ultimate” end but the process of life and death, creation and destruction itself. We seek the permanent in the impermanent. In a sense, it is like the paradox of trying to fill an infinite void, totally– how can that even be? Yet, we try anyway, always building up a house that can never be full, always planning on how it will one day be filled. If our attitude shifted from that need to “fill the void” with the simple act of “filling,” or decorating, or painting to simply paint, and not have some goal– would this not give us greater content? Not even content, but recognition that we will never fill the void, and that is not the point. “Filling,” “becoming” is what is.

This brings to mind Taoism, or Buddhism– some of the teachings which resonate with this understanding. It’s not so much a matter of becoming anything else than what we already are. It might be said, that, philosophically, it is not so much as replacing one ideology with another, than it is accepting the natural ebb and flow of creation and destruction, and ourselves as a part of it. Perhaps a shift of perspective would acknowledge our compulsion to create, but instead of just merely for the future, for the present. “Simply being” that is, may follow. This is the greatest definition of eteology that I can think of– or the seeing between perspectives. More to come on these reflections…. Stay tuned!

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2 thoughts on “What happens after postmodernism?

  1. Post modernism is quite poorly described at wikipedia. Whoever wrote that article is trying to say as little as possible with as many words as she or he can put onto the page. As I understand it, post-modernism is the notion that we live in a pluralistic society with many perspectives on the issues around us. Each perspective has merit in and of itself. It goes back to some soul-searching that folks did after world war II – where we saw everyone following the leader sometimes doesn’t work out too well. These academics who think that they have the corner on the market when it comes to truth about life and society and the world can lead people to do bad things – like go to war. With a society today where nearly everyone has quite a bit of education under their belts, people should feel the personal responsibility to think critically about the events in the world around them. So today in our language, the positive concept of “opinion” has come to supplant the more vague “sensibilities,” and the negative word “prejudice.”

    However, your thoughts here on post-modernism seem to be more an excercise in searching your own soul than anything else. I would suggest a couple of things to you which might help you in your journey:

    First, if you have lived most of your life in the usa… you might be surprised to see the difference in how events are reported and written about by the Canadian media. People in the usa have been dumbed down a lot by the kind of mass media we have down here. And the character of folks in the usa really does reflect that. People in the usa value spontaneity, they value acting and reasoning based on their impressions of things. What their gut tells them is often more important to them than what their intellect would tell them. USAers are generally not good at critical thought. In Canada, there are laws about truthfulness in the mass media. And because public discourse up there remains more civil and more reasoned… the citizens of Canada also become more rational in their personal approaches to life. If you want a taste of this, read through the Globe and Mail. Listen to podcasts at the CBC. Watch the streaming video at CPAC. You’ll even see that the conservative publications up there such as the National Post, and MacLeans magazine are much more cool-headed than their counterparts in the usa. If you are an intellectual who feels unappreciated in a nation of people who don’t seem to value intellectualism, you might be refreshed on seeing how Canadians reason about the world.

    Secondly, you may be at a point in your life when you need to sit down and begin to solidify your conceptions about the world. Many young intellectuals go out and share their essays and musings – but everything they say is just in the spirit of exploration. They don’t mean any of it with any seriousness. They recognize that their conclusions one month may be different than their conclusions the next. The fact of the matter is, however, that the mind is very fragile… and is prone to believing whatever it is one has chosen to conclude that week. A person who has an accurate perspective on the world will be able to be successful in her or his life, and a person who errs in her judgement will end up hitting a brick wall in her agendas. There was a year about a decade ago, when I had this same soul-searching moment you seem to be having. I sat down and started to browse through the words of such philosophers such as Immanuel Kant. And though I really didn’t get very far when it came to absorbing all that thick prose, I was very inspired that those philosophers advocated a person ought to think and learn and reason about the world independently… and that through reasoning he or she will come to see the way forward for himself. Indeed, one may even come, at first, to conclusions which would seem odd if others heard them… but a thinker has to be true to the ethic of analysis, rather than try to conform her worldview to the perspectives of her society. And those models will get refined over time. I have seen that over the years the models I have dovetail more and more with what is known as “common sense.”

    Now to deal with your post at perhaps its face value, if you were honestly asking where society is going from here, and I took a tack in conversation with you that was unwarranted… hmmm I hope we will move towards a more civilized and honest mass media which will inspire folks in the usa to be more reasoned and thoughtful about their lives, and about the issues going on around them in their world. But the history of the usa doesn’t give me a whole lot of hope for that, right now.

  2. Hey Christopher,

    Thanks for your comment. When I was speaking about postmodernism, alot of what came to mind was the work of Deleuze. He spoke of “becoming” as the most overlooked part of our lives. We always think in “end” or “beginning”– points in time which we must achieve or accomplish. If music were seen like this, it would be meaningless. It is the space between the points that is most important, the “becoming.” So in that sense I am not writing a finished blog, nor just a blogger with the intent to write; I am a blog-becoming. There is an active, living process that is often overlooked in favor of abstract ends. Perhaps understanding the pluralism/multiplicity of life will help us become aware of this flow, and see deeper into who we are. It is this “between-ness,” or the relationship between things, the space between ideas that has been explored very little.

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