Post-Modernism as a Depersonalization/Derealization Crisis

Source: Artbreeder.com

Between the idea
And the Reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

From “The Hollow Men,” by TS Eliot

I notice that I share a fundamental starting assumption with post-modernism – the realization that everything is a story, and the impossibility of obtaining “positive certainty” about the full nature of anything.

Even the factual things people do manage to measure with precision are already fictional distinctions premised on limited assumptions. We imagine different ways of separating and measuring what is otherwise an infinite but unrealized potential, the so-called Void.

And I understand (but don’t share) their tendency to make no distinction between thought and thing, because the “thing” is also a thought. Everything we know is put together by narrative – it’s all a fiction. Peering through the post-modern lens, everything, in other words, is just language. From this angle there is no reality beyond language, or no meaning beyond what language ascribes.

There is insight here, but there is also a very subtle blunder. It’s the same one I made as a teenager when I fell into a depersonalization/derealization crisis, which is a terrifying physical and psychological conviction that nothing is real.

Here’s what this post-modern insight misses: If all conclusive meaning (Truth or Reality) is fictional, then this information itself – this negative discovery – is an example of an insight that is non-fictional. The nature of “truth” doesn’t disappear, but changes at this juncture from positive certainty to negative discovery. Truth changes shape but doesn’t disappear.

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Manifesto

Trauma
Photo from “Truth Theory”, online magazine

In memory of Pat Styer

The Writer(s)

I’m having more trouble than usual picturing the reader. This project will lead me far from my usual comic shticks. As I leave my comfort zone, sneers and arched eyebrows appear on the imagined face of this unfamiliar reader. And it’s not helpful to focus on the few familiar faces out there. They differ so much from one another that it makes me nervous.

It reminds me of being at a party. With respect to each person I act and feel completely differently. Talking to all of them at once builds a mini-Babel. There are awkward silences interspersed with comments bordering on Tourette’s. Editing does wonders.

I’m uneasy because I don’t feel any overriding persona I can lean on like an old friend.

I’m a shifting perspective exhibiting the personality implicit in whatever angle of view happens to be momentarily dominant. (And that wasn’t a good way to introduce myself to girls at college).Read More »