A Prophylactic Against Structural Criticism:
If you are looking for ordered, detailed argument, such posts may be few and far between. Given that the blog's title suggests the image of a mind literally coming apart, that alone might serve as fair warning. In any case, on to the actual post.
Our minds are powerful tools for constructing the world which we encounter physically and otherwise. We have almost limitless connections that we can make, and can treat any one object on multiple levels and from multiple angles. We can consider whether one thing is not many, and what the implications of that might be. Importantly, we feel that certain of our experiences, or objects related to experiences, have contributed to the person that we are, and we assign something like the term, ‘meaning’ to these experiences. These occurrences reflect upon the experiences that we’ve had, how they have impacted us, and how we understand ourselves in the world. Of equal importance is the fact that such experiences are very often not chosen by us, and our reactions are similarly not under our control in the way that, say, how we approach a math problem, or the function of our lungs, might be. Because these emotions and the way in which we experience anything are inherent components of the experience, we have control of how we reflect and respond to this experience as a whole. In what we call experience, the objects are inseparable from the medium and the receiver. Emotions, Karma, the ineffable and other terms have all been applied in explaining some of this phenomenon.
The last century has been a century, intellectually speaking, that has challenged much of the thinking concerning the purpose of human life, and the meaning of our efforts, and the meaning of how we interact with the world. We are today about 50 years removed from the advent of what is often referred to as post-modernism. The child of this revolution was the acknowledgement that our minds are infinitely capable of seeing experiences in new ways, and a refusal to allow existential/modernist strife to define our reality. Rather than seeing the world as pregnant with the absurd, post-modernism saw the world as inherently nothing. This could mean, for us, either that there is really nothing that at base exists, but I believe the point was something else. Post-modernism accepts that meaning is not something that is an essential feature of the world. It is, rather, constructed by individuals and societies based on prejudices, past experiences, and an attempt to provide order to the human experience in a way that could be shared. Should anyone place their eggs in one basket of what defines reality, or defines them, the post-modernist would simply laugh at the naiveté of such a commitment.
Post-modernism was largely a movement of examining society. Biases and Prejudices, and stereotypes often became the basis for showing how the meaning of any one thing could be deconstructed into basic ideas that lacked real creativity or connection to something in reality, if reality existed. But though the universe is supposedly infinite, there are only countably many things for man to examine. Out of Post-Modernism comes what I call the Age of Irony. This age, the age of 90’s grunge, hipsters, much of the late genX and genY population, recognized that post-modernism, at base, has to identify human beings as having deep connections in consciousness, thought, pattern, and shared experiences, in order to show that such meaning does not really exist, that the problem ofnot being able to get in another’s head was real, but unimportant, since nothing had meaning. In essence, in order to show and think about the world as deconstructing into meaninglessness, and as a world where people were unable, and would be naïve in attempting, to communicate meaning, post-modernists had to establish a basis of human experience.
Almost like a redux of the modernist to post-modernist movement, let us examine the past two decades. The 90’s saw a youth angry with the world they were coming into, whose post-modernist view and attempt to free themselves from the pressure of meaning (see the 60’s) only yielded more wars with even less justification, and whose view of the world seemed just as contradictory as the views the post-modernist was trying to throw off. But something happened that lead this youthful movement down another road. The anger and dark view of this further absurdity was not sustainable, though, due to a mix of 90's rockstar overdoses, and a certain human resiliency against sustained bitterness, and gave way to allow people to laugh at such an utterly absurd logical fallacy.
This is the Age of Irony. This age realizes, and laughs at, the fact that post-modernisms espousals were themselves subject to their own criticisms, and were still reliant on a search for meaning in the shared human experience. The movement that shirked a reliance on inherent meaning, either by its presence or absence (see: modernism/existentialism), was seen to be more contradictory and confused and unable to apply its beliefs than those before it. This is complete irony, the view that the movement for accepting basic meaninglessness had to accept shared meaning to show its point.
The result of this realization is manifold. Since nothingness is ironically meaningful, by post-modernism, everything is ironic, self-contradictory, and it is unwise to define anything as anything at all. The indicative mood has deteriorated in a way that is deeply interconnected with our view of freedom of speech. These are the issues that need discussing. The post-ironic age will come, and I suggest is being brought about by the most conscious of those seeing the results and pervasiveness of the failures of post-modernism and our initial reactions to that failure. My ultimate point, one that will take many other posts to discuss, is that it is not a failure for us as humans to have twisted ourselves around so in this interplay between art, morality, politics, and philosophy. Human experience and derivation of meaning almost require it. I suggest in my writing, though, ways of thinking about how we interact with each other, and our own self-images (both on the micro and macro scales). But so you can see now how quickly these thoughts blow up and pervade so many topics in a very confusing manner. So that's it for now.
Read David Foster Wallace's Commencement speech to Kenyon's 2005 graduating class, entitled 'This is Water.'