A lot of the thoughts in this post are kind of recycled from thoughts I was having over the summer - legitimizing consumerism as the anti-Truth, where Truth may not even be desirable in the first place. Also legitimizing consumerism and pop-culture as a rejection of the reality of death. (See Toy Medium by Daniel Tiffany.) However, all of that was explored in a post I wrote about fetishism that got eaten by Blogger. Fuck you, Blogger. So anyhow. American Renaissance.
I feel like Renaissance writers are slipping their way steadily back from the grave into pop culture, as that may be the only route left. I was startled and delighted to be made aware of the Walt Whitman/Walt White from Breaking Bad connections.
Since being exposed to the writers of the American Renaissance, I've always felt an enormous affinity for the varying, yet linked, ideologies. From Walt Whitman's Pantheistic view that God is in everything - our bodies, the Earth, those funny little hairs we have on our forearms, and the ragweed in our yards - to Herman Melville's later suppositions in Moby Dick of Atheism and Gnosticism and the quest for Truth leading to either destruction or nothingness (whoa, bleak), to Ralph Waldo Emerson's focus on conformity as not only personally and spiritually stifling, but as societally crippling and dangerous, and to Henry David Thoreau's original message of defiance when facing an unjust system.
So where are we roughly 100 years after this Renaissance?
More or less, we're here:
(Crap, I want this outfit...)
Materialism now is feeding off of pre-existing materialism. An obsession with cool - current cool sucking extracts from past bits of cool, creating new slightly altered but significantly distinguished breeds of cool, leading then to more materialism so that we can keep up with all of the fucking cool. Clearly, I would be a really cool person if I wore these Bart knits. (But really, I think I would be.)
Cool is getting expensive, damaging, and is removing us from our own individualized searches for Truth. However, when Truth just may indeed, as Edgar Allan Poe or sometimes Melville would suggest, lead to discoveries of bleakness and ruin, who wouldn't want Bart knitwear? If there is no Truth, as the great leviathan, Moby Dick himself intimates, then perhaps this American un-Renaissance of corporate dependency and glib satisfactions is a natural progression in the Western tendency to fuck things up. That may sound like an over-simplification, and certainly it is. But oftentimes there is truth in over-simplifications, and throughout time, Western culture truly has tended to spread its picnic blanket of fucked-up-edness far and wide. Fucked-up-edness may however just be a reality of mortal life. Who knows. Get fucked sideways by Moby Dick and then float on ecstasy on Leaves of Grass. American Renaissance writings are all so valid, and so prevalent to right now, and yet bring so many different emotions and thoughts to the table.
So what do we do? Live at our own Walden Pond? Not likely. But we can read. We can think. We can reconsider what America was intended to be in the first place, and how from early on, these writers tried to shine light on how we were slipping from what could have been some really awesome values, had we actually lived up to them.
That's it for now. 'Murica!