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Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Truth is Out There

The entertainment sections of the news channels are awash with the new X-Files TV series. What makes this one different, so they say, is the context of the post 9-11, homeland security, climate change hoax, barbarians at the gate paranoia so evident in the political campaigns.

It would be comforting to think that all our problems were linked in some alien-big-government-big- corporation-socialist conspiracy, e.g. Men in Black + Enemy of the State. It's the modern dream that with the observational skills of good science and correct religious or "spiritual" beliefs and values, we can get to the truth of things. It's out there!

We love mysteries especially when they are solved by industrious, smart, and sexy detectives.

The problem with the postmodern turn (whether in art, religion, science, or conventional wisdom) is that it holds out the possibility that mysteries may not be able to be solved either by reason or by the gods. Randomness and uncertainty are built into the universe. That's why Cormack McCarthy's and Salman Rushdie's works are so troubling. (Not to mention Neitsche and Derrida).

It will be interesting to see if the new X-Files are a resurgence of realistic modernism ("Just the fact's, Ma'am") or tip into postmodern absurdity and ambiguity. Of course, we postmodernists know that all categories are simply made-up devices to call attention to certain traits and qualities in our chaotic experience. Including the categories of "modern" and "postmodern." Distinctions are arbitrary and have limited use--but are helpful in so far as they are helpful.

Nevertheless, I think it is helpful to remind ourselves of our contingency, to recognize the role of our imagination in relating to the universe and each other, and to give up some of our silly expectations that destroy those relations. Expectations like we can know things as they really are, that my questions and worldview are more important than yours, and that "the truth is out there."

Happy viewing.

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