Postmodernism - An Essay
Christopher Drysdale

There was once a day when personal transformation was a completely personal journey. There was a day when maybe there was only one "enlightened" person in all the world that we knew, a village priest, or perhaps, if we were lucky, an entire edifice, perhaps a monastery, or a cathedral.

Going to this person, or to this place, we could learn the basics of self-transformation. There, we could learn the first few steps. From that place, the path to freedom was our own.

Now we live in the postmodern world, where information is abundant, communication is instantaneous, and travel is inexpensive. We live in a world where everything is of such a scale that not only are we affected by forces beyond our control, but we are forced to be aware of it on a daily basis. We watch as job markets expand and contract rapidly; we see disasters around the world in a flash on CNN; wars and celebrations are brought into our very living rooms. More than ever before, we are aware of events beyond our immediate sphere.

Now the very things that used to be our foundations--community, shared space, and shared values, are assaulted from all sides. Our lives are not face-to-face, but email-to-email. Our sense of stability and grounding into the earth has been shaken by rapid change. Plugged into the network of world communication, we are profoundly alone.

Yet freedom is no more ours than our progenitors. We are as tied and bound as ever we have been, only now we are part of systems so large that we have only the vaguest sense of participation and ownership.

In this postmodern era, the journey of personal transformation has, like all other aspects of life, become commoditized and quantified. The respect that we used to have time to give and to earn has been replaced with certificates of achievement; intimacy has been replaced with professionalism and accreditation; reputation has been replaced with innuendo and judgement. Patience has been replaced with need; wisdom has been replaced by jargon and political correctness; stability in our lives is something we must fight for, not something to depend on.

Personal transformation has become highly impersonalized. We compete with each other to define the truth in an age when truth is no longer a commonality, but has become instead a commodity. We want to know "who is the best" and "who is right;" we live in an age where stability has become as much a myth as great change once was.

The personal experiences we once could trust in, the interactions with our mentors and our communities that once had meaning, have been eroded as our trust has eroded. Instead we strive for outer measures to value ourselves by. We look for a deeper truth not because it is our nature, but because we are panicked by the ephemeral nature of the truths we once learned. We look for a deeper truth because it is our nature to survive, and our spiritual selves depend on it. Thus we search not patiently, but feverishly and afraid.

There is nothing to be done but to remember that we are all alone in this search. It is the nature of our work. We are not doctors, not lawyers, not therapists. We are not Gods, not Giants, just simple men and women.

Find each other, love each other, and learn from each other. Seek love here on earth as among the stars. The stars will guide you in the world, but your feet will guide you on your path. Let simplicity guide you; choose not the right answer, but instead choose what is best.

1999 by Christopher Drysdale
Permission to reproduce this on this page was graciously granted by the author

 

With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty all around me I walk,
I walk in beauty.
I walk in beauty.
I walk in beauty.
In beauty I walk.

Navajo Blessingway

 

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