Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I refuse to say anything profound

Every once in a while I think, perhaps I should blog about deeper, more meaningful subjects: politics, religion, the human condition--those weighty subjects over which people wear themselves out and kill each other.

Then I read other people's blogs--and editorial columns, which are, after all, the same product in different mediums--and pretty soon my eyes glaze over and my head starts to ache and I think, Hasn't this all been said before?

My mom lent me this book to read: Rumours of Another World, by Philip Yancey. As some of you may know, my parents got born again about five years ago and they went from being calm, rational, spiritual, loving and generous people who understood the world and its limits to hyper, shrill, religious, intolerent and artificially cheerful people who are racing toward Doomsday as fast as they can and flogging the rest of us to hurry up.

Anyway. I read the first couple chapters of Rumors and there are some pretty deep quotes in there. Yancy borrows heavily from the great artists and writers of the last twenty centuries, so he's bound to have pirated some good material. But I'm reading it and going, Yeah...hasn't this all been said before? In fact, didn't I see this on somebody's blog last week?

I don't think I'm being cynical. I just think we're begging the questions. Love and death and God and Art and yadda yadda freakin' yadda. These things exist. We all know they do. (Well, some people quibble on the God point, but let's keep moving.) Why do we--you--they--spend so much time splitting hairs over definitions?

I had dinner with Crystal last night. Bright girl. Not very well-read, but always open to learning and discussion. She asked me some minor question about religion and I said I didn't like to talk about religion because everyone either wanted to prove a point or wanted me to prove something to them.

Hell, I was eighteen years old when I realized you can't change another person's mind. And all these bloggers do is surround themselves with like-minded folks who will feed into their own little illusion of reality. If that's not close-mindedness I don't know what is.

So I guess I'll just keep reflecting on my little version of reality--yummy food, sumptuous silk, stories to tell and read.

I figure love and death and God and art will come get me when they need me.


C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

So would it constitute messing with you to say I found that profound?

Seriously: don't change a thing. Found myself nodding when PZM (one of my favourite bloggers, yes, partly because he's essentially in my political tribe, but also because he does lots that isn't just politics, and, when it is politics, it's at least reasonably focused on issues that make sense in the context of his larger themes) commented a week or so back that that the political blogs are the lowest common denominator (see, if you care). I like a blog that's a bit more personal, a bit more quirky.

That said, some folks do think about religion, death and politics. And people do, even, change each others' minds now and then, talking about them. Seen it happen, once or twice. The net probably isn't the best forum for it, no, but that's not saying it's entirely pointless.

I do talk politics, and religion (death, not so much, except perhaps indirectly). I have both passion and curiosity concerning both (and I'm sorry to hear about your parents: my own went through something perhaps a bit less extreme, but also unsettling, which could well be one of the reasons for my ongoing hostility even to such relatively innocuous terms as 'spirituality'). And one of the volunteer things I do involves reading an awful lot of news; so I get saturated whether I like it or not. But I've been trying, of late, at least, when I let it into the blog, at the very minimum to try to keep it a little interesting, be a little different, find a quirky angle, if at all possible. Otherwise, yeah, it gets stale awfully quickly.

But yeah, there's a lot of noise out there (some of which, yes, I make). It's the net. Everyone talking all at once, lots of them about the same things, saying things we've all heard before. A lot of tales told by idiots, as the Bard (and Scotius) would have it... And it's always important to keep in mind there are other things in existence, that the world doesn't turn, most days, on anyone's cosmology or political preferences. It turns what's for dinner, what the weather's like, what you're doing this weekend. So there's probably nothing saner than talking about those things too, really.

So: how are you getting along with your cookie cutters?

Holly said...

Amen, brother.

I usually take the stance that you can't change another's mind, but you may be able to change their perceptions of the world, and occasionally they will change their own minds. But that's not likely to happen when one is bludgeoning another with "how can you be so stupid as to not see this?" which is what I see too much of in cyberspace.

It is, as you say, the nature of the net.

As I get older I find myself sympathizing more and more with Zen philosophy--the inherent absurdity of it. If life can't be summed up in a heart-shaped fluted cookie cutter, then why bother?

Holly said...

Seriously, AJ, I think this is all just an extension of my anti-post-modernist rant; I just haven't yet figured out how it connects.

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

Contrary to your determination to post nothing deep (and apologies, I'll get off the topic any post now), you did get me thinking again about modernism and post-modernism following your recent rant. Didn't come up with much wildly new. Do find myself thinking I'm not so much hostile to modern art as a bit annoyed at the tribalism it seems to engender. As in: I actually like some cubist stuff okay, have seen the odd abstract piece I quite like, too. I've heard atonal jazz I liked, and can't see why Stravinsky and Bach can't coexist in the same CD collection... It's more that there's this trendy, cliquey thing going on in art, and aesthetic ideas like cubism, which have their place, seem almost to take over for unjustifiably extended periods, turn almost into religions, and the work winds up getting a lot more space than it probably deserves. And like the essayist you quoted noted, there's this incredible hostility to certain schools thought to represent outmoded ideas.

There are lots of ideas I do think are past their prime. But that doesn't stop me pondering their influence, at least, nor attempting to appreciate the work they inspire. I don't share the religion whose imagery inspires his work, but I can appreciate Michaelangelo on several levels (well, I say, anyway)... So dumping on the mannerists as somehow just too bourgeois just strikes me as silly--typical ideological puritanism, bad for the brain in art and everything else.

As to post-modernism, I think the notion that there are multiple perceptual frameworks is a good one... and it's always smart to keep in mind that our context and background influence our perception. But I do take exception to the notion that these necessarily reflect genuinely entirely different realities. And I think there are entirely excellent reasons for thinking this (to the extent that I suppose, in the modern context, it makes me a pretty staunch materialist). In science, we strive for repeatable experiments, and look for principles anyone can confirm, and we very frequently succeed. A Newton of force is a Newton of force whether measured by communist or capitalist, dadaist or realist, whether in Beijing or London... And silly buggers who don't like the results of this research or that, this argument or that, alarmed for whatever reason at the implications that follow have been trying entirely too frequently to beg their way out of it with pleas to 'post-modernist' interpretations of an argument's validity... in the end, arguing essentially only that they'll believe whatever they damned well please, however devoid of evidence that belief may be. And there's nothing, I'd say, new or revolutionary about that stubbornness. Just the same old purblind stupidity, under a brand new name.