Monday, October 15, 2007

All that is Solid Melts Into Air

Brights of Nettlebed
That's just a cool name from a furniture store near my house.

In today's news, Zach was horribly embarrassed when he went to take his swim test for the Sailing Society. As he had no proper swim wear, he had to wear his purple husky short shorts. Following that initial minute embarrassment, he was mortified to find that all the Sailing society reps there to test him were women; fit women. Unclothing in front of them only added insult to his already battered self image.

In other news, most of today was spent pondering society. Given the Introduction to Marshall Berman's All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, I was immediately engrossed in his writings. If I were to describe to you what Modernity is, and how it relates to Sociology, well... I'd do it quite poorly. However, if I give you a few of my favourite quotes from Berman that may just do the trick.

"There is a mode of vital experience--experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life's possibilities and perils--that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience "modernity." To be modern is to find outselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world--an, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are."

On The Modern Environment:
"All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify, all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profanes, an men at last are forced to face... the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men." - Marx

"a tradition of overthrowing tradition" - Harold Rosenberg

"everything is pregnant with its contrary" - Marx

metropolitan life is "a clash of groups and cabals, a continual flux and reflux of prejudices and conflicting opinions" - Rousseau

Basically, our society is ever changing, our traditions, morals, and cultures are obsolete before they can become solid, and everything is contradictory. It is in the world we now live, everyone experiences modernity as the norm, but everyone feels they are experiencing modernity for the first time because in a sense they are; no ones experiences may be the same in a world that is in a constant state of flux.

With this flux there comes a double edged sword as mentioned in the first quote. You may be in a maelstrom of craziness, and that maelstrom might have you forget who you are, but it's going to offer up an immense amount of experiential possibilities, or as Berman says it so simply, "this atmosphere--of agitation and turbulence, psychic dizziness and drunkenness, expansion of experiential possibilities and destruction of moral boundaries and person bonds, self-enlargement and self-derangement, phantoms in the street and in the soul--is the atmosphere in which modern sensibility is born."

So Modernity is an experience, The Modern Environment a maelstrom that offers "experiential possibilities" but the "destruction of moral boundaries", so what is Modernism?

"These world changing processes have nourished an amazing variety of visions and ideas that aim to make men and women the subjects as well as the objects of modernization, to give them the power to change the world that is changing them, to make their way through the maelstrom and make it their own."

Berman is by far the most hopeful of those men I've quoted today. Most of these have an extraordinary struggle with modernity. They rue the constant flux for it's lack of stability, yet enjoy its possibilities. Nietzsche said that, "Modern mankind found itself in the midst of a great absence and emptiness of values and yet, at the same time, a remarkable abundance of possibilities." That leads to his advent of Nihilism and the death of God.

Of course, like the world around it, modernism can, and does, change. It's been happening over the centuries but it was in the 60's when there came a great amount of change. I'm not going to talk about that much, but what I will say is that though modernism was changing, the essence of modernism remained the same; that is in italics below:

"All these visions and revisions of modernity (referencing a changing views on modernism in the 60's) were active orientations toward history, attempts to connect the turbulent present with a past and a future, to help men and women all over the contemporary world to make themselves at home in this world. These initiatives all failed, but they sprang from a largeness of vision and imagination, and from an ardent desire to seize the day."

There are different types of Modernism as well. This could go on and on and I have to get ready for class. But I'd like to think of myself as the so called "Post-Modernist"

Post Modernist:
"Their ideal was to open oneself to the immense variety and richness of things, materials and ideas that the modern world inexhaustibly brought forth."

Maybe I'll be a Sociologist with emphasis on Post-Modernism. Who knows!

Love you all,

1 comment:

Judith said...

Zaaaack! Found your blog again (thanks to Devin!). Love reading your tales--more, more, encore! If the swimming test is the worst of the expedition, hopefully you'll survive 8-) Miss your smiling face, but enjoying the vicarious experience--know we're cheering you on!