Tell the tale once more in our time

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

The Essayification of Everything” by Christy Wampole for The New York Times’ blog, The Stone, 5/26/2013

The essay, like this one, is a form for trying out the heretofore untried. Its spirit resists closed-ended, hierarchical thinking and encourages both writer and reader to postpone their verdict on life. It is an invitation to maintain the elasticity of mind and to get comfortable with the world’s inherent ambivalence.

Pinterest, Tumblr and the Trouble With ‘Curation’” by Carina Chocano for The New York Times Magazine’s section, Riff, 7/20/2012

A paper titled “What Is It We Are Longing For?” published in The Journal of Research in Personality, breaks down these “life longings” into essential characteristics. They target aspects of our lives that “are incomplete or imperfect”; involve “overly positive, idealized, utopian imaginations of these missing aspects”; focus on “incompleteness on the one hand and fantasies about ideal, alternative realities on the other hand”; result in a “temporarily complex experience” combining “memories of the past, reflections on the imperfect present and fantasies about an idealized future” (this is called “tritime focus”); and that “make individuals reflect on and evaluate their life, comparing the status quo with ideals or successful others.”

The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond” by Alan Kirby for Philosophy Now, November/December 2006

[…] whereas postmodernism favoured the ironic, the knowing and the playful, with their allusions to knowledge, history and ambivalence, pseudo-modernism’s typical intellectual states are ignorance, fanaticism and anxiety: Bush, Blair, Bin Laden, Le Pen and their like on one side, and the more numerous but less powerful masses on the other. Pseudo-modernism belongs to a world pervaded by the encounter between a religiously fanatical segment of the United States, a largely secular but definitionally hyper-religious Israel, and a fanatical sub-section of Muslims scattered across the planet: pseudo-modernism was not born on 11 September 2001, but postmodernism was interred in its rubble. In this context pseudo-modernism lashes fantastically sophisticated technology to the pursuit of medieval barbarism – as in the uploading of videos of beheadings onto the internet, or the use of mobile phones to film torture in prisons. Beyond this, the destiny of everyone else is to suffer the anxiety of getting hit in the cross-fire. But this fatalistic anxiety extends far beyond geopolitics, into every aspect of contemporary life; from a general fear of social breakdown and identity loss, to a deep unease about diet and health; from anguish about the destructiveness of climate change, to the effects of a new personal ineptitude and helplessness, which yield TV programmes about how to clean your house, bring up your children or remain solvent.

On Decadence” by Charles Hill for The American Interest

If Alfred North Whitehead was correct to say that the world’s intellectual history “consists of a series of footnotes to Plato”, then the philosopher-novelist Iris Murdoch was justified in saying, “What Plato feared should now be clear.”

Indeed, there is a logical chain across intellectual history that links Plato’s dismissal of the “poets”, by which he meant all the major art forms, and today’s Age of Entertainment, which aims to turn all that is not entertainment into entertainment. For Plato, the arts were mimetic; they merely represented reality and therefore distorted it, keeping one from confronting reality directly. When the Enlightenment ruled out metaphysical foundations, “art” and the “sublime” became a substitute for religion. With modernism and its invited return of the mythic, the arts became a demonic force, as in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus. And in postmodernism the classic arts, such as the symphony orchestra, painting, poetry and the novel, the “legitimate” theater and architecture, all become merely the hobbies of elevated cultural elites.

Our Age of Anxiety” by Elaine Showalter for The Chronicle Review

American anxiety seems like a cultural chimera created by, yes, social and economic problems, and by personal crises, but also by media attention. Perhaps too much attention to feelings creates a self-fulfilling prophecy and risks making us a “solipsistic, self-consumed, bottomless emotional vacuum and sponge,” like the “The Depressed Person” in David Foster Wallace’s wickedly funny 1998 short story.

The Clutter Culture” by Jack Feuer for UCLA Magazine, 7/1/2012

UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families book, ‘Life at Home in the 21st Century’

“For more than 40,000 years,” write the authors, “intellectually modern humans have peopled the planet, but never before has any society accumulated so many personal possessions.”