Infinite Digression/regression/agression/progression/ingression: The Post-Modern

Jamesvansteel By Jamesvansteel, 17th Sep 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

A strange exploration into the self-consciousness of post-modern life and the implications reflection holds for life in general.

Infinite Digression/regression/agression/progression/ingression: The Post-Modern

usually Titles are short and illustrative of the c o n t e n t that follows, be it prose, poetry, or any other explication of a series of thoughts, connected or not. One of the simultaneously explicit and implicit goals of the post-modern object/subject verb/noun is to bring into the conscious consideration of the audience/author what exactly is happening at the .mo.ment. of expression. The mind as a knowable and explainable process, at least as I see it, is not scientific, it is not necessarily logical, and it may even fall short of artistic, but it certainly exists. And it is the goal of these wonderful adjectives to describe what is existent across the spectrum of possible interpretations in such a way that totally different minds can complete an act of commune-ication. A bringing together across that vast chasm of space and time known as a dinner table.

For a moment my expression will be clear. The following sentence in quotation marks is an example of a typical english statement that might be found in any conversation between two or more people. Immediately following is a set of three strange analyses of the first word in that sentence which give a certain flavor to the way the rest of it is read and thought about. The analyses are not true or right or meaningful or anything else you might find in a textbook. They are interpretations which provide a window into the possibility of the sentence. They peek beneath the surface of assumption and raise questions about what exactly is being done when an individual speaks this particular sentence and all the unconscious elements that go into its formation.

“It wasn’t what I expected”

“It”, being a short and often used sound in the English language, loses the resonant clarity of experiential meaning that its cousin “I” carries around by adding that troublesome “t” on its aft end. Audibly, there is a harshness to the sinus contracting “ih” and the ringing finality of that toothy “tuh” so neatly stitched to its clueless benefactor. Such a phonetically stunted word must refer to a limited, local, and concrete antecedent and is clearly dependent on reference to a previous mental image with which the human imagination can actually accomplish something. No “it” has ever changed your life.

“It” contains a hidden element of intimacy and trust between interlocutors. An inside joke if you will – anyone listening in to our exchange won’t know WHAT we’re talking about! It’s you and I alone, at this moment and in our shared mental context, however sparsely overlapping that may be, who are privy to the deep mystery that our cryptic “it” calls back to into unspoken memory. Upon this telepathic foundation, layered upon a created and unique past which exists only in our two minds, we shall build an edifice of wholly unprecedented and immediate value. “It” is the engagement ring to an interesting conversation.

“It” doesn’t quite do the trick. Being a relative word, or one which requires a previous understanding of the now referenced speech act, is not demonstrably designative of which speech act it refers to. In the previous clause, sentence, breath, exchange, dialectic, topic, conversation, past experience there are countless ideas which could be the intended target of such a backward arrow. The bow of context must be pulled taught and aimed well enough (string and shaft) to provide a listener’s mind ample and focused narrative as to which verb, noun, adjective, adverb, preposition, interjection, conjunction, or other silly grammatical concept the speaker fires back at.

I will not expound on the other words in that sentence, let alone my idea of their relation to one another which is, of course, merely my personal opinion.


What emerges from this constant return to the beginning is a possibility tree of causality in human thought. By disregarding the limitations of time which state that once something is done it is done with, the mind can return again and again to the genesis of its own actions. One is free to choose a different path based entirely on interpretation. E.g.: I felt happy today -> he felt happy today -> I am happy today -> I felt content today -> I feel happy today -> I feel happy now -> I felt happy now? -> he am content now.

It’s not supposed to make sense, it’s supposed to spark questions. Is there a fundamental story we tell ourselves when we choose to refer to the agent of our emotions in the first person rather than the third person? In my case, it really is a “he” who may or may not have felt such an emotion, but some part of my linguistic consciousness asks that I identify my sense of self with the experience of that emotion. Either that “I” performed the act of happiness or that I was subjected to it. The entire expression changes in its deepest sense if I do not use the term “I” to begin it.

What goes on in our lives on a daily basis, as complicated as it may seem, is recorded in our memory as a simple, linear, causal branch of this possibility tree, from which all others are unconsciously excluded from memory and disregarded in our accumulated narrative of reality. The fact that I ate something because I was bored is smothered by the fact that it was lunchtime, which was painted over by the fact that I was hungry (whatever that means), which completely forgets the source of currency which purchased and hands that prepared this food in its many stages and the physical/biological processes which had to occur for me to have come into possession of it in the first place. No I ate because I was hungry. This is remembered, this is fact. Causality, for the sake of sanity, has to be neat and concise.

But sanity is not the object of the post-modern project. In fact, it may even be its antithesis! In this strain of thought it is the goal to go literally out of one’s head in order to look back in at what the heck is even going on in there. But how can anything productive be accomplished if we keep blowing everything up into subatomic pieces and mixing them around? This is where that previously mentioned narrative comes into play.

It is through the cognitive act of creating narrative that meaning is produced in human thought. To be cautious, I am making no spiritual, metaphysical, social, or political claims to meaning or truth. What I mean to say is that your mind, and the choices you make about how it functions, create the reality you live in.

If you choose to follow a predetermined narrative of victimhood in which you, the lonely sufferer, survives the onslaught of iniquities and toils that are placed on your weary head moment after moment, day after day, week after week, you will experience a reality which fits precisely into your chosen world-thought-paradigm.
If you choose to follow a lifelong narrative of scientific reductionism in which you, the seeker of truth in its purest form, shed doubt on the simplistic and naive claims to understanding and contentedness of your fellow man, traveling ever deeper into the Marianas crevice of minutiae and constituent parts, you will inevitably find an endless string of fascinating becauses with which to occupy your chosen world-thought-paradigm.

The end result, if one can believe in an end after such a beginning and middle, is that we as individuals are left with a final (initial?) choice. After taking inventory of your hopes and dreams, what reality will you live in?

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