Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Irony vs. Sincerity

Just read this essay from Christy Wampole, "How to Live Without Irony," and loved it. Below are three of the paragraphs that most struck me.

On the social consequences of the pervasive "ethos of irony":
While we have gained some skill sets (multitasking, technological savvy), other skills have suffered: the art of conversation, the art of looking at people, the art of being seen, the art of being present. Our conduct is no longer governed by subtlety, finesse, grace and attention, all qualities more esteemed in earlier decades. Inwardness* and narcissism now hold sway.
[*I have my doubts about the sway of inwardness, because it implies a reflection or contemplation that are lacking from the ironic culture Wampole critiques. In my opinion, it's shallowness, not inwardness, that is in power at present.]

On an alternative and a solution to the alienated and ironic life:
Observe a 4-year-old child going through her daily life. You will not find the slightest bit of irony in her behavior. She has not, so to speak, taken on the veil of irony. She likes what she likes and declares it without dissimulation. She is not particularly conscious of the scrutiny of others. She does not hide behind indirect language. The most pure nonironic models in life, however, are to be found in nature: animals and plants are exempt from irony, which exists only where the human dwells.
What would it take to overcome the cultural pull of irony? Moving away from the ironic involves saying what you mean, meaning what you say and considering seriousness and forthrightness as expressive possibilities, despite the inherent risks. It means undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values. It might also consist of an honest self-inventory.
 Thank you, Christy Wampole and New York Times, for this.

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