Thursday, December 08, 2016

Up From Hipsterdom

David Foster Wallace was Moses on the mountain:
The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows.
But David Zahl is the Joshua who enters into the land:
Identity-related biases gets in the way, not only of how we regard music or art, but how we regard other people. We begin to view them not as who they are, but who we aren't.  An inflated sense of taste prevents us from, well, loving. It leads us to turn our fellow man into a tool for our own validation. Which is worse than embarrassing; it is tragic, especially for those who look to a Lord who made no bones about bypassing tastemakers in favor of the "least of these".

I suppose, then, it is no coincidence that my abandoning the music critic path coincided with joining that most uncool of clubs, the Bible Study. It was there, after all, that I heard about the God who loves sinners in such a way as to answer the status question once and for all. No trend, no matter how sweeping, can rob us of that good standing. A bunch of shameless Celiniacs had the gumption to look me in the eye and claim that God is not put off by those things about ourselves that our endless posturing tries in vain to hid. Not put off by that weak-willed part that falls for syrupy ballads hook, line, and sinker - as well as our inner snob who truly believes that we can be justified by sophistication.

They told me about the reality of divine mercy, which removes the threat of condemnation from serious matters right on down to less serious ones. Our taste buds cannot say anything about us that God does not already know and forgive. We are free, therefore, to enjoy what we genuinely enjoy and detest what we can't help but detest, free to contradict ourselves, free to be earnest - even about our love of irony - free to trust our ears more than our prescribed identities, free to set trends and follow them well.
While most still languish in Egypt, I too am ready - thanks to a book of very astute music criticism - to leave cool behind.

(Not that I was ever there in the first place.)