|He's French - 'nuff said!|
I'll tell you how - the same way I can tell you I don't like Brussels Sprouts. Oh, you can dress 'em up pretty and my wife, who is chronically depressed, loves them. She actually makes mildly edible Brussels Sprouts, but it is significant that she always eats twice as many of the little cabbage-like things as me every time. Now, I used to dislike onions until my sweetheart forcibly introduced me to them. It was eat onions or starve, so I ate the onions and learned to love them - rather like some of the commandments that were less easy to love than the other ones. Like Brussels Sprouts, however, post-modernism always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I've never been able to love it.
I looked up some post-modernist philosophers out of curiosity, just to see where all these dismal films and books were coming from. Jean-François Lyotard jumped out at me as a suitable post-modernist villain for me for a lot of reasons.
- Jean-François Lyotard spent his whole life trying to explain why socialism always failed so badly. Hey at least he was honest about it having failed and didn't try to rewrite history to cover up the catastrophic mistake that is socialism. Lyotard's criticism of the practical implementation of socialism was that the men who influenced the socialist movements, despite being avowed atheists to a man, were too heavily influenced by religion. Karl Marx, who was Jewish and baptized Lutheran, Lyotard says was too catholic. Freud who was also Jewish, Lyotard says was too Jewish, even though Freud mostly worshipped at the church of sexual deviance. Lyotard, himself, as a self-procalimed expert on the subject, thought he could figure out a better way to make socialism work. Hitler thought the same thing too as I recall and look how that worked out for the rest of us.
- "Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.” - Jean-François Lyotard. The man said stuff like that all the time. What he meant was that there are no absolutes; no truth. I would not recommend spending an afternoon reading Jean-François Lyotard quotations. He didn't think much of those of us who search for truth and beauty or, worse yet, for God. Such "metanarratives" were beneath him.
- In Jean-François's world, nothing is absolute. Everything is seen and experienced in relation to everything else - only limited bits of everything else; no more, no less moral; no less, no more right and proper. Lyotard's is a relative world in some ways like Einstein's, but without the systems within the chaos which give a reliable meaning to the universe so that one might muddle along in it with some sense of security. Lyotard thinks that having no generalized ideas, no ten commandments and no moral absolutes sets us free. Personally, I think that if JF's world was the one I had to live in, a B.F. Skinnerian nightmare of humans as nothing more than stimulus programmed robots, I would not feel free at all.
They don't make movies like that anymore. Instead, at the end of most movies - at least the ones that are considered for Oscars these days - either (a) everybody dies, (b) most everybody dies and one person is left to contemplate the futility of his own survival or (c) everybody just wanders off to do whatever comes next. We don't always see those endings, but directors film them all the time. We don't see them because they don't test well with audiences who want some resolution.
Jean-François Lyotard would see the need of the proletariat for sappy endings as a weakness brought on by our failure to reject religion and moral principles. You know I'm kind of happy God made us long for happy endings and for closure. I think He made us storytellers for the same reason that I believe, B.F. Skinner notwithstanding, that humans do possess free will, I believe we also have a powerful need to resolve things; to find meaning in our lives here on this planet.
It's why we build things and finish them. Unlike beavers and bees and ants who never stop building, people like to get through with things. We may do maintenance or someday a remodel, but we like to come to an end at some point and then step back and admire our work. In that way we are like God, who built the world, we are told, in 6 days and then spent the 7th day leaning back in his celestial Barcalounger smiling with satisfaction at what he had made. We are, I firmly believe, made in His image. We're like our Dad in that we like to see a project finished.
Jean-François Lyotard would have us muddle along without resolution, without core beliefs or moral absolutes and would convince us that by denying our fundamental mental makeup, we would somehow make ourselves free. Moses warned us about guys like JFL in the first book he ever wrote. Lyotard's philosophical father told a naive young woman in a garden that obedience was passe' and that, in fact, disobedience would make you like gods.
It always comes back to the lie about how we can become gods. All the perfect man-made societies that ever failed, all the utopias that have crumbled to dust and all the best-laid schemes to end war, poverty, disease and suffering and didn't, stand mute witness to the devil's false premise. Every misery, every injustice, every life ended too soon can be traced back to that pernicious lie.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.