Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: March 2007

18 March 2007

Oh, Irony!: An Ode

Normally I don't do this. Normally I don't dip into the bedlam of internet discussion forums. They're engaging, but only until you realize that pearl diving in a flame storm is usually fruitless. Bless the new egalitarian discourse of the web as much as you like, but it has a disastrous consequence: the notion of authority is not just dethroned where appropriate, but faced with total mistrust in almost all circumstances.

And so when anyone attempts to make some kind of sweeping claim about, for example, the contemporary challenges of avant garde art, it is not uncommon for an entire jungle of composting critics to swarm on such claims with their rote anti-dogmas. Still believing the schoolyard battlecry, "That's just your opinion!," these people have a valuable place in the discourse. But it's limited. And when such mulchers sincerely propose irony as an answer to criticisms of irony, it's obvious that they're out of their league.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, Paul Lonely just published "The Kosmic Karma Of An Integral Poet," his manifesto of reconstructive, postpostmodern art, on Daniel Pinchbeck's website Reality Sandwich. It's a beautiful piece of writing and I highly encourage you to read it, but for those of you with an imaginary time shortage, the gist is this:

Pointing out the relativity of anybody's truth has long since played out its novelty. Deconstruction is important, crucial, but adolescent. Nobody's going to deny you your teenage years, but you're expected to grow out of them at some point. And consequently, many artists are justifiably concerned with the current culture's acid canonic opinion on the shallowness of beauty, the impossibility of global moral claims, and the illusion of common truth. When, eventually, all of this gets boring, what do you find to replace it? Is there a way to square the mighty irreverence of pluralism with the yearning for sacredness that refuses to die in us? Yes, there is...

...but of course, many people read Paul's poetic essay as a unilateral attack on all of the gifts of postmodernity. Many saw it as a return to unself-reflexive ideology (failing, of course, to notice how their own zealous clinging to irony is Big Time Hypocrisy). And so I did the only thing I could think to do, after trying to disarm the bomb with rational argument: I wrote a poem.

There's a new kind of merit involved in being heard online, one that requires an author to take the perspectives of the listeners even more intimately than before in order to "write under the radar" of their ceaseless mastication. I'm no literary scholar, but maybe using irony to attack irony is just what some people need.

And so this is me possessing the ironic perspective in order to demonstrate its boundaries. This is me relishing in the shotgun vitriol of unchecked deconstruction in order to do something unthinkable among the mulching layer of deconstructionist critics: make a point.

I'll leave it up to you as to whether or not it's a success. But consider that even asking for your feedback suggests that we may share a common reality - or at least an articulation of individual realities - and that even if you disagree with my take on ironic artwork, it's because you and I have some kind of mutual understanding about something. And sosomething survives the relativity, after all. Relatively speaking.


"Oh, Irony!: An Ode"

Oh, Irony! How wonderful you are. How authentic. How bottomless is your wealth of wisdom. How ultimate is your offering of truth.

Oh, Irony, how superior you are to other modes of expression. How cleanly and finally you have demonstrated that nothing is more true or good or beautiful than anything else - except You, of course. How contained and coherent you are.

Oh, Irony, thank you for liberating me from believing anyone can have any kind of legitimate authority over anyone else. Thank you for ridding me of my precious, poisonous ideologies. Thank you for digesting everything I ever cared about, including my self, and birthing me smiling into the vastness of existential surrender.

Oh, Irony, how lonely I am here with nothing to believe - except You, of course. And how eternally satisfying you are! How lovely it is to never tire of deconstruction. How endlessly yielding is the indiscriminate analytical grinding of Your Great Work, which shows me in my limitedness how everything I love is a cultural daydream. How pleasant it is here, doubting even my love for this boneyard.

Oh, Irony, how useless I am now, married to You, unable to escape Your Lying Convictions. How confused I am when arguing for Your Absoluteness. How painful it is to admit that Your Great Truth applies equally to me, and to You. How much I loathe myself in fleeting moments when I recognize that after receiving Your Gift, there is nothing upon which I can pin my heart.

You have eaten my dreams and offered nothing in return.

You have eroded my passion and left me to waste in the depths of unmotivation.

You have baptised me into the Church Of Insincerity, and now I pray only for myself, for I know through Your Great Truth that there is no greater source of knowledge.

You have taught me to pray for the imaginary grace to realize that prayer is a waste of time.

You have consumed Yourself, and left no ground for even Your Own Anti-Doctrine.

Deep in the blindness of Your Cannibalized Eyes, Your Wisdom is finally honored in ways grander than Your Imagining:

Oh, Irony.

You have taught me that I do not need certainty for sincerity.

You have taught me to love the world in spite of its flimsy construction.

You have taught me that reality requires agreement, and You have shown me just how deep this vein extends, into everything I consider my own.

You have taught me to listen to the constructed claims of others, because they can show me new dimensions of my own constructed world.

You guided me into this living experience of a mutual world, one more fundamental than the quirks of my isolated perspective.

You taught me insincerity as a method of exposing insincerity, and in so doing, You bore me through ennui into a fuller, more vivid sincerity than You could ever guess.

Thanks a lot. I owe You one.