Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"What There Is To Conquer...Has Already Been Discovered"

I used to follow a popular, hip Christian magazine which shall remain nameless.  A few months in, however, I realized that all of the articles are about almost exactly the same things, all the time.  One article on slacktivism, one article on relationship roles, one article on lust, one article on pop culture, one article on the exact amount of simpleness needed to achieve optimal Christian hipster-hood…all recycled over and over again.  The content is all right the first time around, but by the third month of the same repeated drivel, I decided to take up a more thoughtful form of time-wasting, and started subscribing to fashion magazines.  At least their repetitiveness is accompanied by pretty pictures.

The point is, the magazine conundrum begs a question: is the addition of one more voice to the teeming multitudes of the information age really worth it?

Is it worth my time to be writing these words, and is it worth your time to be reading them?  Especially considering that other people have reflected almost exactly these same things, and written them down, and you’ve probably come across them before.  Not to mention, a large percentage of these people are probably more intelligent and clever and well-spoken than I am.

For instance, T. S. Eliot:
“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” [East Coker, No. 2 of “Four Quartets”]

See what I mean?  Even the throwing up of one’s hands at the futility of speaking these small thoughts over and over is a repetition.

But I am afflicted with the generational curse to find an online forum and strut about on it, pontificating any banal thesis that comes to mind.  This condition is made worse by my incurable taste for books and sharpened into a fine point by my college degree.  Hmm, I may be mixing metaphors here.

In any case, as a good postmodern, I feel the absurdity of my pursuit but I decide to continuing pursuing it anyway.  There’s probably some lesson to be learned from this.  It might go something like this: The world we live in, this 21st century, has managed better than any other age to convey to the human mind its own smallness within a world of other beings like itself.  But all that exercise has proven is the individual ego’s persistence in denying any truth that is uncomfortable.  In the face of my own smallness, I still choose to assert myself.

It’s a paradox, but it’s a paradox I can live with.

With confessedly less than due humility,