Welcome to Lost Arts! This blog is a prison break of sorts. The name of the prison, as Cardinal Ratzinger aptly observed, is “The Dictatorship of Relativism.” If you are concerned or discouraged with the way things are going these days, this space is for you. You are not alone. Let’s jump right into the mix.
Identity politics have transformed our culture into something the likes of T.S. Eliot, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Willa Cather (to name but a few) wouldn’t recognize. I feel like the proverbial stranger in a strange land. This is not the world in which I was raised. It is an alien landscape from those days of my youth spent wandering the high plains and mountains of central Wyoming. Today’s mainstream media and literature have become particularly absurd. Little makes sense. To say our culture has become shallow would be an understatement. It doesn’t have to be this way. If we are to recover the depth of dignity that we once enjoyed in the works of writers like Faulkner and W.B. Yeasts, we need to get a grip on reality.
Faulkner, according to Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was the granddaddy of magical realism. Yeats believed in fairies. What on earth, you may wonder, does either one of these writers have to do with getting a grip on reality? For one, both allowed history and tradition to inform their works. Faulkner, as demonstrated in “A Rose for Emily,” situates the bulk of his creative work in the historical consciousness of the Deep South and the larger Western tradition. Yeats, who penned Celtic Twilight in order to tune into the past, situates his imaginative work in the historical consciousness of Ireland as well as the West at large. Both writers are conservative in that they embrace the past in order to situate the present and project the future. Reality manifests through historical consciousness and cannot be reduced to a materiality void of human imagination. Unmoored from reality, imagination can lead only to the absurd.
Novels such as Don DeLillo’s White Noise and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest exemplify the absurdity inherent in postmodern literature. Here the imagination comes unhitched from reality to serve as the interpretative function of a human mind imprisoned in a selfish-self. This self-interpretation of the self, where the only judge is the “I,” births an absurdity posing as reality. If reality appears absurd these days, it is due, in part, to a lack of historical consciousness. When a person’s history becomes purely self-referential, they are trapped in a present devoid of the past and unable to project a future situated in the course of time. In short, the center cannot hold.
The proponents of identity politics, many of whom would erase the past to build Utopia, fail to ask how their project can function if each person can identify as anything they like. For example, there are now over 100 genders to choose from, and the list keeps getting longer. When Postcolonial Theory declares logic a construct of Western oppression, how can its proponents then employ the necessary logic to write understandable sentences, let alone stories or poems? In another example, if the goal of Queer Theory is to blur boundaries, how can these theorists then construct sentences that are bounded by a grammar that must distinguish between nouns and verbs? These theories, popular among the “Woke,” do not correspond with reality. That which fails to correspond to reality is rendered absurd. It is the opposite of philosophy.
In a recent essay, “Racing to Win: Philosophy versus the new Gnostics,” I call on everyone who is paying attention to become like philosophers. This doesn’t mean you need to run out and purchase a pile of books. It does mean that you need to jump into the fray and push back against the absurd. Use reason as a lightsaber. The West is founded on the concept of Logos, which orders reality and allows it to make sense. No Logos = nonsense and all hope is lost. Don’t walk through that door.
Finally, don’t back down when would-be Dictators of Relativism resort to name-calling. This is a popular tactic of those who realize they cannot speak reasonably about a subject. In other words, don’t be afraid to confront academic absurdity with real-world common sense.
Stay sane. Keep the faith. Stay tuned.