“Metamodern consciousness is born through tragedy. Through the excruciating unsolvable dilemmas that show up in our lives, in society, in nature.”
Metamodern consciousness is born through tragedy. Through the excruciating unsolvable dilemmas that show up in our lives, in society, in nature. Why is my cousin alone in the world? Why does my ex-girlfriend suffer so, where every attempt to help just amounts to deepening her pain? Why did my dad live his life without close friends? Why did slaves in Bangladesh make this shirt for me? Why are there millions and millions of tortured piglets all over the state of Denmark?
Metamodernism as tragedy
While we cannot hope to solve every problem of the world, we can at least begin to try to comprehend its deep tragedy. This tragedy is shared by all of us, in different contexts, to different extents. And in that we are never alone, we are co-creators of this world, this time, this society. We are all in it together. Not in a sleazy, too intimate way. No. Tragedy shows up with a crystal clear, universal, mathematical necessity. It tears each one of us apart, causing us to judge one another, to blame ourselves. And we are always bound to both do good and cause suffering to ourselves and others.
The ability to see and recognize this tragedy is one of the chief goals of art, wisdom and personal growth. Metamodernism is born in the recognition that there is no escape from tragedy. There is no escape, no utopia, no final resting place for the evolving life forms that we are.
Our ability to accept tragedy is the key to accepting ourselves and one another. We can make the recognition of the unfathomable tragedy, the tears of the world, our main engine in life. Then, there is no need to get angry anymore, no need to play it safe. It’s all there: a heroic adventure to help ourselves and help each other.
And yet, tragedy is only one part of a fundamental triad within art and philosophy. The second part is beauty. For some strange ass reason, this reality, for all its meaningless grinding and torture, is sublimely beautiful. Majesty, clarity, serenity, love – where do these qualities come from? How do they emerge? How come you recognize them and know their meaning? You must have known and felt them at some point. And you will sense them and recognize them again, no doubt, before your time is up.
The third part we have already touched upon. Wondering about the world. Mystery. The ability to not just look out the window and see a mundane street with cars and pedestrians, but to see complexity, self-organizing principles, strange and bizarre social orders, the workings of political power in the life of every child and old woman.
Metamodern consciousness, for me, was born through the recognition of the tragedy of the world, through the recognition of its equally undeniable beauty, and in sheer awe at its mystery. That is why we must use every minute of our lives to mend tragedy, create beauty and explore the mysteries. These three things are intimately connected. Because the more mystery we reveal, the greater our ability to mend tragedy. And the greater beauty we recognize, the more it was all worth it.
Metamodern consciousness cannot be anything but political. The recognition of tragedy activates us and makes us strive to change society. The recognition of beauty makes us know that life and society always hold new promises. And mystery makes us ask the questions we need to ask, refraining from simple answers to complex dilemmas.
Ich bin ein Berliner. I am a metamodernist. I will ask questions until I drop dead. I’m waiting for you guys to come up with answers and to make it beautiful. Are you animated by tragedy, by beauty and a sense of mystery?
I expect nothing less of you than a Greek drama, agony and ecstasy in twelve parts.
Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, and the upcoming books ‘Nordic Ideology’ and ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of World History’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here.