So, what I think I'll do is use this space to try out - in serialized segments - my next article. It's on a topic very closely related to my articles about Tolkien and the Modern Age and Star Wars: The Dark Side. Only those dealt with romanticism vs enlightenment thinking in the arts and in storytelling.
The new piece is more general. It is about the whole notion called modernism, which is the natural outgrowth of Ben Franklin's wing of the Enlightenment. I'll post it here in small chunks. Comments are welcome. Especially examples or counter examples. (e.g. I cannot recall the name of the urban planner whose misguided "modernist" notions made such a mish mash of urban renewal in NYC in the 60s.)
Anyway, here goes:
The Radical Notion Of Modernism:
Is it relevant for the Twenty-First Century?
After 40 years in decline, modernism appears to be at a nadir, perhaps even suffering a fatal rout.
Even its supporters seem abjectly apologetic, that is, if you can find anyone who will admit using the word at all. The term is now largely associated with some outmoded and rather ugly architectural styles, far more than with its former meaning -- an over-arching dream of ambitiously making a better world through human creativity and will.
First, let me shrug aside “modernism” in the sense of an artistic or fancy intellectual movement. Grandiose theories serve largely to promote elitist snobbery and to undermine a worldview that is - at-heart - based upon gritty pragmatism.
Indeed, by anchoring the word to specific styles and decades, the opposing postmodernist movement has been able to call itself the rightful successor to something that is archaic, passe, even dead.
Modernism, to me, is about something much more fundamental than some trendy fads and formalisms. At its root, the movement has always been an expression of human confidence.
Confidence that rising knowledge, skill and creativity - propelled by both competition and cooperation - can empower each generation to confront a myriad challenges that their parents found daunting. A confidence that is easily ridiculed as either naive or arrogant, but that - in fact - grows out of the enthusiasm children often express, when they declare eagerness to “be something” when they grow up. To become something important. To do something meaningful.
This eagerness is all-too often punished by sneers on the playground, and later by dour scoffers in the world of adults. Nevertheless, it endures. Modernism is the grownup expression of our childhood dream to significantly change the world.
---&; onward to part 2.