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Dave Brisbin

Messy Truth

The recent film Top Gun: Maverick, was hugely successful, with many fans saying, “they don’t make movies like this anymore.”

Maverick feels like a throwback to Hollywood’s Golden Age, and it is. It’s depiction of clear heroes and villains, unapologetic respect for country, military, staunch individualism, are all marks of the Modern age that began around the year 1500 and is characterized by reason, science, capitalism, and the morality of individual and human rights. But since the end of WWII, we’ve been living in an increasingly Postmodern world that has questioned and deconstructed Modern values, accounting for most of the left-right culture wars we now face.

For all the valid points Postmodernism makes, it’s fatal flaw is that we can’t live life as a negative. We can’t say there’s no meaning here and live that way indefinitely. Humans need meaning, and since the turn of the 21st century, a new movement has been gaining traction that some are calling Metamodern—meta: beyond, transcend—that is attempting to essentially fuse Modern and Postmodern into a blend that finds meaning again in an increasingly confusing and meaningless world.

These are cultural revolutions, and like any revolution, make things worse before any possibility of better. Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we shouldn’t enter revolution lightly, but when we have suffered all we can with no hope of relief, revolution is the only course left. The shape of such exterior, macro revolutions mirror our own interior, micro revolutions. The search for meaning is a series of revolutions we wage as the meaning we have accepted is challenged by the traumas and losses we experience. Each loss creates a personal, postmodern reaction that must be replaced by some metamodern return to more expansive meaning.

It’s a relief to fall back into the arms of Maverick, return to familiar forms of meaning, but truth is always messier than we’d like. We can’t unsee, unfeel the losses we have sustained, so when we’ve suffered all we can suffer with too-small meaning, we become entirely ready to engage our next interior revolution.


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