Last night, I discovered a tetrad of magnificent blogs (future plural, via) that explore landscape and structures of modernity (such as the omnipresent but rarely considered - or seen - refrigeration units). I used to be enamored with the idea of Bachelard's Poetics of Space, but have always found it to fall short of the promise of that title - and these blogs seem to answer the challenge.
The post on refrigeration inspired me to consider how many of the structures that cater to our lives are hidden from view. From a narrative point of view, it would seem that there are not enough of such stories - especially fascinating if we accept that the people working within those structures are the genies of the day, conjuring up mangoes in winter climes. We might then consider how much of our experience is magic, in the sense that the magician never reveals his or her trick.
It is odd that, with all the complex magic going on, the narratives that are circulating are mostly oversimplified, reducing the number of levers through which we, the non-specialists, can access modernity. Looking at modernism (autonomous, separated from mass culture and everyday life, emphasising medium, individulaity - not shared experience, which incidentally was what the Tanna tribe regrets about Western culture), one cannot help but feel that it has yet to properly articulate the shock of industrialism. Articulation requires a collectivity, the word itself is rooted in the joining or meeting of the bones. (Incidentally, Pope warns in the Dunciad that the Arts
differ from Science, but both can be equally destroyed by "scholiasts", unable
to see "the whole frame", unable to connect the joints.)
So here we may articulate the theme of the post, the idea of a new year. "Year" has to do with "season" or "that which completes a cycle". If modernity is a season, I would argue that it still is not complete, because the moment of articulate awareness has not been reached. What I mean by this is if one is to consider the messages of books by Eliot, Hardy, Dickens, and essays by Ruskin, for example, and compare them with de Assis, Borges, Burgess, we move from traditional narrative to an ambiguous intelligent clashing. They do not offer resolution because for a symbol to work, it must first be infused by narrative, and this narrative must then be applied to life and experienced by a body of a people.
We live in an exciting time because meaning is up for grabs - which it arguably always is, but Bakhtin wrote about the battleground of language in our time. I am posting half-ironically because the new year is also celebrated in the country where I live again in a few weeks, and the very celebration on the 31st demonstrates, to my mind, the over-simplification (and partygoing mode even Pope writes of) of the self-satisfied modern experience. I also think that the universalist tendencies from the '60's have been replaced by such ersatz holidays, transplanted like the copies of copies Deleuze and Guattari wrote about. But I would argue that copies are superficial, and what is really happening, like the subterranean refrigerator, remains hidden. In Hadot's great book on science (The Veil of Isis), he pays homage to Heraclitus' thought that nature reveals as much as she hides. May our eyes be trained to the parts of nature that matter - that's my wish for the "new year", never new if we consider William Cleland's timeless counsel for when public trend (or dunces) runs awry: "no public punishment remains other than ... what a good Writer inflicts".