Saturday, April 6, 2013

New Modernism

Recently, I found the time to read John Green's Looking for Alaska, and, in the course of reading the novel, I believe I may have stumbled upon evidence for a rather interesting trend emerging in society's existential perception. Since the end of World War II, the notion of postmodernism has largely dominated the cultural and ideological climate of society. In stark contrast to the morose hesitation of modernists to accept the horror of a changing, increasingly entropic world, postmodernists have largely accepted the disillusionment of the individual to traditional ideas of religion, family, and the state; they have embraced the breakdown of the interdependence and existential commonality of individuals, instead favoring the establishment of a splintered, self-centric scheme in which relativism enables the pragmatic mitigation of a perceptively cluttered and apparently chaotic universe.

However, similar to the longing of modernists for a return to traditional ideals, I believe that a new generation seeking a return to a state of mind-- a way of living-- unbeknownst to it in all but some vague impression or surreal pseduo-remembrance is emerging. Out of the postmodernist deification of the individual's perception, a self-propagating, intrinsic compulsion to pursue a life of greater, deeper meaning, to seek a "Great Perhaps" if you will, in a culture that has implicity forsaken the notion of greater meaning, seems to present itself. Rather than a return to traditional values of bygone generations, the members of this societal trend, which I have dubbed "new modernism," desire an escape from the chaotic state that the nihilism and self-centric paradigm of modern society have ingrained in the perceptive lens of the individual.

New modernists have inherited a world perplexingly obsessed with controlling destiny, but that predominantly does not believe in deterministic future-- a world obsessed with amassing power, but that silently fears its own insignificance as a mere smattering of matter in an inconceivably larger universe and as a brief, taudry moment in time. The new modernist culture is one saturated by the tropes, gimmicks, and cliches formed of the postmodernist's immutable, narrow constraints of singularity and quest to forcefully manufacture a unique identity. For new modernists, the burden of knowledge precedes and replaces experience.

By its very nature, the new modernist perspective is paradoxical; new modernists act in the hopes of attaining an unknown, uncontrollable existential axiom in a social climate firmly rooted in the construct of relative but individually defined realities-- a social climate motivated by the conscious acknowledgement and subconscious fear of entropy. In the evolution of society's existential perception, a brief glimpse of the widespread senselessness-- of the stolid universe's disregard for morality and mercy in its governance of all within it, including mankind-- drove the retreat of the individual to a reality governed by one's own perception, to a cloister of structure floating atop a sea of madness. Nevertheless, in society's inward shift in perspective, a new kind of madness surfaced in the benign absurdity of attempting to dominate the universe's will with one's own. Self-contrived understanding could not fill the void left by naivety. New modernists seek some inconceivable harmony between the nature of the external madness and that of the internal absurdity. Through the lens of expectation, one may misremember the past as an anachronism and mold the future into an oversimplified caricature, all the while oblivious to the directly observable present. Man-made structure must inherently emerge over time-- fragmented and incomplete at any one instant in time. Yet, natural structure exists only in an instant, seeming chaotic over time. I would hypothesize that, perhaps, the disjunction of internal and external paradigms is the root of discontent in social existential perception and of new modernism.