Postmodernism and Job

We were discussing postmodernism today in Humanities. I know that I have blogged about it before, but here were some thoughts and questions from today's discussion.

Should "postmodernism" be understood as what those who first began using the term -- Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard -- meant it as (which are not always the same thing) or as it is commonly used today, by people on the street? By students in the classroom? Does a word mean only one thing?

What does it indicate when the majority of the students in the classroom -- and we're a pretty traditional bunch of students, in the 18-22 year old range or so -- are extremely frustrated by cultural artifacts such as the postmodern poetry of Hannah Weiner? So... maybe it's clever. But we want to know what it means, and we're sure that it does have a meaning, that no one puts meaningless words on a page and no one publishes (totally) meaningless things. And we want to know what this meaning is.

I've been told that postmodernism is a reaction to the "power play" of modernism, that it was a backlash against modernism trying to take over subversively...

I don't think so. If I'm going to try to speak in such broad sweeping terms of philosophical movements at all, I think it's far more about trust and that being sustained or broken. I believe that a lot of the suspicions in postmodernism grow out of the complex soil of our own fallen human nature, which prefers to trust ourselves rather than any authority, rightful or not, and out of some deeply broken trusts in recent times. (I've talked about that a lot before. I think it has to do with things like abortion... soaring divorce rates... corrupt governments... wars that kill more civilians than combatants...)

Finally, one of my biggest gripes with people who decide they like "postmodernism" -- however you're going to define it -- and that they're going to hunker down there and build a summer home. No. No. Don't do it. RUN AWAY. Run to Christ. Postmodernism is based on a lot of lack of trust, a lot of questions about everything. "Why?" is a good and legitimate question in some settings. You can ask "Why?" about pretty much everything -- and postmoderns do, I do, but it is not always good to ask. There is a place to hold authorities accountable, but there is also a place to shut up and respectfully submit and trust.

There are so many questions that it is better not to ask, and I am learning that very slowly. There are some questions that humans are not meant to find the answers to, because finding those answers exacts a horrible, horrible price, and it changes everything. Sometimes costly questions must be asked, and answers must be sought despite high prices.

But what does it say when we only want to ask questions and never to be still and listen?

My friend Raora wrote about this in a haunting section of poetry.

There are questions that are curses
There are things we must not ask
When the Present moment merges
With the Shadows of the Past.

Eve never should have questioned the goodness of God in the Garden. Never.

Last spring I discussed this with a friend of mine, as he told me a story of a fight, of self-defense and then we looked at each other and our eyes mirrored our dreadful conclusion: There are some things it's better to never find out, better to never know.

And to run to Him for grace instead.

I am hanging on every word you say
And even if you don't want to speak tonight
That's alright, alright with me
'Cause I want nothing more than to sit
Outside Heaven's door and listen to you breathing
Is where I want to be

Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further.

~Job 40:4-5


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