Monday, June 2, 2014

Modernism and the Death of the Human Spirit

The human spirit is dying. It has been diminished as time marches on, its strength sapped away by the most pernicious of causes. Adventure is dead, independence is dead, uniqueness as well. Society is now content with spiritless conformity, without meaning, without truth, never knowing beauty, never knowing passion, all but like the silent dead. Even those who profess to fight again this grey void know nothing, as the fight conformity with more conformity, pouring fuel on the growing greasy black flames of the spiritless. Indeed, they profess to non-conform through irony, adding yet more dissonance and ugliness to a world already marred by the loss of passion. Mankind has become the ultimate irony; passionless seekers of passion.

What has caused this great tragedy? Why has mankind lost the treasured attribute of passion? While there are many demons that have let loose the gates of Hell to sap the passion of mankind, the chief of them is modernism.  Modernism has rejected  the passion and beauty of romanticism, leaving nothing but a meaningless void that traps mankind, bound with the black ropes of nihilism and formlessness. Modernism demands pure industry, and neglects the natural beauty and grace of leisure in nature. It consumes, leaving behind a depressed shell of mankind, slaving meaninglessly into the grey fog which blinds them to the sky, wind, and earth with both gives and confirms life. Mankind has erected a formless concrete tower as its own tombstone, and a meaningless, shapeless blotch of paint on canvas as the drape on its coffin; both standing by waiting for the death-rattle of the human spirit to cease.

This destruction of the human spirit has not been without opposition, however. Postmodernism rose from the shadow to supplant modernism. But it turned out to be merely another imp, gleefully stabbing its trident into the heart of mankind's spirit, and drinking the blood of passion from the wounds. Postmodernism does not stop at pointing out the meaninglessness of life, but revels in it. It is the demon on the shoulder of mankind, chattering obscenities at beauty, and cowardliness at passion. Modernism built the door to nihilism, and postmodernism urges mankind forward through it to embrace meaninglessness. Even postmodernism's attempts to add meaning are anemic parodies of the beauty captured in pre-modern times. The beauty of the whole has been replaced by the chaos of the components, and mankind has taken note. Passion and pleasure, satisfaction and effort, and love and socialization have been separated, and people pursue the action without the underlying meaning. They notice not the beauty around them, just their nihilistic cage of their thoughtless pursuit of pleasure, built by modern thought, and locked by postmodern.

How can we fight this disaster? What can mankind do to dissolve this cage of meaninglessness? An appreciation of beauty must be restored. Look at the sky, the trees, the mountains, and note that there is still beauty in this world. Rather than be discouraged by adversity, let us recognize that hardship is merely a part of adventure, which we should desire, not dread. Know that pain passes into memory and fades to nothingness with time. And when you notice that your fellow man is caged, free him. Break the chains of meaninglessness without mercy, and show  that life is beautiful, and passion increases its beauty. Explore, learn, and work to improve this earth. Then perhaps we can return to loving beauty instead of meaninglessness. Then the spirit of mankind can live once more.


Magnetic Bran Flakes said...

'people pursue the action without the underlying meaning'

I can relate to this, I must say.

I like it! Raw and dark start which brought me in, but I was uplifted in the end.

Atticus said...

Adventure is dead.

I'm not sure what you mean by "adventure" here. Are you talking about discovering new territory? You're right, there's not much to discover on the globe anymore... but there are so many other things for us to explore now, from the Universe to the atom.

Independence is dead.

Do you mean Man's ability to work individually? That's not what we're wired for though... we've persisted exactly because we're not entirely independent.

Uniqueness as well.

But but but... you’re different from me! You’re different from Scipio… I’ve never ever ever met someone quite like you. I hope you’d say the same about me.

Society is now content with spiritless conformity

There's been an explosion of new mediums for expression through various new technologies and programs on the internet in the past decade! So many new forms of creation allow people to channel their creative energies in ways they feel comfortable. This obsession with altering the world around us is an inherently human trait that, I believe, will never die... it's been with us at least since the cave paintings.

Without meaning.

Agree completely here. However, we can bootstrap our own meanings if we so choose.

Without truth.

How about without a lack of lies? Or without COMPLETE truth?

Never knowing beauty.

I don’t know if a person could actually go through years and years of life without “knowing beauty”. To say that the people you see around you aren’t looking up at the blue sky or the beautiful sunset or that neat Harvest Moon tonight…I’m struggling to think of a person like that in my life. Maybe there are those who notice it less...

Never knowing passion.

Few people I know have passion. However, every single one of them has “A” passion. Might be the silliest thing… something you yourself find irrelevant… but it’s still something they’ve got a strong knowledge of and have, for better or for worse, devoted a large portion of their life to. EVERYONE has this.

Khusrow said...

First, Iago, you should read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. One of the themes in the book is dealing with beauty and art in the midst of a technologically advancing world that seems to oppose it.

I wouldn't say that adventure is dead but it is dying. Atticus, you bought the bike and went on that adventure. Many just talk about it. Scipio and I were going to build a forge before I was deployed here. I think that part of what brings this little circle together is our desire to live bigger lives but that desire is there because it is clearly not what the majority around us are doing.

Although we are in an age of new expression I think the medium for expression is changing but we are at the crisis point of a social change to change what it is we are expressing in the first place. The image is the same just made with pixels instead of brush strokes. I think we are at the baroque/Classical or classical/Romantic divide. It is a boring pattern Medieval/renaisance/Baroque/Classical/Romantic/Modern/PostModern. I think we see here the first time where the pendulum swing did not swing back far enough to fill the void caused by modernism and so we have been raised in that void and that is why we are writing this stuff anyway.

Iago said...

So, needless to say, I may have been a bit melodramatic here...

@Atticus: Adventure is more of "trying something new" than exploring, although exploring certainly counts.
People are different from each other, but in general those differences aren't appreciated. Society likes conformists. Like any generalization, there are exceptions.
So many forms of expression, and most of it is wasted on the same old memes, jokes, and ideas. And selfies. Needless to say, there IS creativity and new creation occurring, but it is definitely the minority.
Without truth is refering to the moral relativism the is present today. It is very difficult, almost taboo, to say someone is wrong. And if everyone is right, even with contradicting views, then there is no truth, just chaos.
And people can see beauty without appreciating it. They look at the sky and say "that's pretty" and never give it a second thought. In other words my point is:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Ferris Bueller.
"Few people I know have passion." You said it yourself. There's a difference between having an interest and having a passion. Passion involves action. Those who are passionate about a subject will do something with it. Which you said. Perhaps I don't notice it in most people.

@Khusrow: This is the second recommendation I've gotten for this book. I will pick up a copy soon. And I think you nailed it with the pendulum analogy. We need to swing further away from modernism.

@MBF: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.