I talk about postmodernism frequently. It irritates my wife, my friends, and my co-workers (especially this one) to no end. It seems that some people find it confusing, pointless, frustrating, or ridiculous. Fortunately for me, I have one friend who thoroughly enjoys my theo-philosophical rants and ravings nearly as much as I enjoy listening to myself rant and rave. His name is Andrew, and he is wonderful. Sometimes, we drive all over town in his fancy-pants Mustang talking about ridiculous ideas and doctrines that are absolutely unimportant. He’s been known to say incredibly profound things (“I don’t know, man; some human beings are outrageous.”) and to clickity-clack in my Chair of Pretention. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see Andrew all that often.
Recently, Andrew and I decided that we would taxonomize ourselves because labels always help make things easier. So, I am happy to announce that Andrew and I are “reasonable irrationalists.” See, I’m tired of people assuming that my explorations into postmodernism lead me to nihilism or the abandonment of logic altogether. Those accusations just aren’t true (Get it?)! Some people want to call a postmodernism like the one that I describe as “post-postmodern”. Brian McLaren, though not a “scholar,” per se, has responded to such ideas:
Those who speak of post-postmodernism are, I think, assuming that postmodern means only this early negative phase. I’d rather refer to this early negative phase of postmodern culture as “the early negative phase of postmodern culture.” That will save having to add a lot of posts as new phases come along.
For McLaren, this early negativity is not postmodern but “antimodern”. Instead, actual postmodernism is “a synthesis of faith and reason”. I couldn’t agree more with McLaren’s explanation. These post-postmodernisms are “enough to make a person go postal”.
If postmodernism is about pluralism, then it would be unfaithful to a postmodern attitude to absolutely reject all other worldviews. Instead, every absolutist approach is questioned, even the absolutely postmodern! The beauty is that in the tension is life; paradox is the only truly consistent, postmodern ethos. To be postmodern is to embrace both logic and mysticism.
So, Andrew and I are reasonable irrationalists. We enjoy our heady, logical, reasoned philosophical and theological ramble-fests, and yet such verbose maundering is absolutely meaningless without lived experiences that are beyond words. This is why I love what John Caputo says about the “event” so much.
The event can never be held captive by any particular instance of the event, never reduced to any present form or instantiation. It would be the height of injustice, not to say of arrogance, to say that justice is finally realized in some existing form, in some present person or state. The unconditional event is only conditionally realized in any time or place, in any word or proposition or discursive formation, in any ontic realization or actualization. The irreducible event is what reduces us to tears, to prayers and tears, for its coming. The event is what destabilizes all such relatively stable structures as attempt to house it, making them restless with the future, teeming with hope and promise, even as it is in virtue of the event that things are haunted by the past, made an occasion of dangerous memories, which are no less unnerving and destabilizing. The eternal truth of the event is its nomadism, its restless journey across barren deserts, or perhaps its venturing upon uncharted seas, in any case, its discontent with more sedimented, sedentary formations, even as the ancient charge that is laid upon us by the nomad is hospitality, to throw wide the door of welcome to its coming. Not only to welcoming its coming but to pray and weep over its arrival.
So, when I say postmodern on this blog, I do not mean the absolute rejection of reason or logic, the necessary descent into nihilism, or the welcome embrace of relativism and the dismissal of ethics or morality. I mean the reasonable irrationalism that my friend Andrew embodies.