The Post-Modern Dialog, Abridged.

Modernism: There are no forbidden questions.
Postmodernism: Why?

3 Responses to “The Post-Modern Dialog, Abridged.”

  1. Robert McNally Says:

    Mommy: Because I said so, that’s why!

  2. Dolores J. Nurss Says:

    The big issue of the 20th century seemed to be that God was dead. It looks to me like the big issue of the 21st century will be that God won’t stay dead.

    I think that the Modernism/Existentialism of the 20th century was an important step–the adolescence of humankind, characterized by rebellion, questioning everything, growing beyond simply accepting what our ancestors said because they said so. Errors and embarrassments happened along the way, but that’s all part of the process. If you test everything, some things will break.

    Now, I think, comes a time of synthesis. Some of the old values really did work, and some did not, and some worked partially, but not necessarily for the assumed reason. To rephrase your dialogue, Talin, of “There are no forbidden questions.” “Why?” In practice it seems to me to come out, “There are no taboos.” “Well, maybe some of the taboos had a good reason to exist. But Scylla and Charybdis aren’t really monsters, just a really tricky passageway that will chew up an old-fashioned ship, although not one designed to handle it.”

    The difference, I believe, lies in revisiting the ways of the ancestors with an adult consciousness. Rather than, “I don’t stick my finger in the light socket because Mommy says it’s bad luck,” it’s “I don’t stick my finger in the light socket because I understand that electrical discharges can do nasty things to human tissue.” I believe we will spend the twenty-first century rediscovering valuable old things that we discarded because we didn’t understand them [i]and were not encouraged to understand them[/i] while innovating new things spun from our increased insight into the old.

    Part of that, I believe, will entail a rediscovery of mysticism, including the reclaiming of rituals, not as automatons going through the motions, but as those who consciously look into the trappings of mysticism for satisfying symbols that answer a valid soul need. To some extent I base this on my own return to the Yaqui community, and the deep satisfaction I have found in the ancient rituals. I do not participate out of obedience to unquestioned authority, but because I find life fuller with them than without them, having tried both states, and by looking with adult eyes for what I can gain from the rituals, I discover many more blessings than I might have, had I gone through the motions out of docility. That is why the Yaquis teach that these rituals serve nobody unless engaged in “with good heart”.

    In terms of the balance between the old and the new, between conservatism and liberalism, I believe that a bird needs both a left wing and a right wing to fly. The function of the conservative is to conserve all that is most useful of the values of our forebears: for instance, respect for hard work and responsibility towards one’s family. The function of the liberal is to liberate us from all that is destructive or outdated of the values of our forebears: for instance segregation or no-longer-sustainable consumption of resources. Naturally, the two will always argue as to where to draw the line between what we keep and what we discard. Do family values include duty to an abusive husband, duty to a gay child? How about when hard work comes in conflict with duty to family? Liberals and conservatives are never going to agree, but from that creative tension between them springs a just and ever-self-correcting society. But heaven help the society that ever falls wholly into the hands of either one!

  3. Talin Says:

    Wow, Dolores — I’m glad to see you so inspired 🙂

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