Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups…So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
–Philip K. Dick, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later”; courtesy of Wikiquote.
This is the very much belated first installment in my series on sequels and repetition in pop culture. In the brief essay on the index page for this series, I said:
My basic thesis, which I’ll be examining in posts to come is this: Repetition, in the form of series, serials, remakes, and quotation of various tropes is at one and the same time the most characteristic feature of modern pop culture (all genres) and also the sign of its decadence and creative decline.
In order to do that, I’ll need to lay a bit of background, starting with this post.
In his classic book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton makes this interesting observation:
The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.
The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.
It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.
This rings true. As humans, we love repetition. As Chesterton notes, “Do it again!” is indeed the refrain, the battle cry of the young child. We adults, having “sinned and grown old”, are not nearly as capable of infinite repetition without being wearied. Still, even adults like things that are familiar and reliable. Few enough things in life are, so it is small wonder that we cling to those things the we perceive as being so. I think this is a big factor in human material and intellectual culture. Nature is as it is, and is all too mutable for our taste. When we build a building or paint a picture or sculpt statues or spin tales, we are trying, by our art, to make something permanent out of the impermanence of the cosmos we find ourselves in. Aristotle noted that poetry (by which he could be taken as meaning more or less what we call “fiction”) is more philosophical than history (“nonfiction”) because while history tells us only what happened, poetry tells us what could happen or might happen or ought to happen. In short, it gives us lasting structure in an ephemeral world.
Beginning today and continuing as an ongoing project, I’m going to add a couple of new tabs to this site.
There are a lot of complicated topics I talk about here, and while I frequently give links to other sites (particularly Wikipedia), I have often felt that a reading list or bibliography or reference page would be a good thing to have for those who wish to explore the topics here in greater depth. I’ve been thinking about the best way to do this, and have decided to try the following, as an experiment.
I’m going to add two tabs–new pages–to this site to the ones above (Home, About, Contact Me, and Series Indices). One will be the Library. I will use it to post links to PDF versions of public-domain books and articles relevant to the things I post about and discuss here. You will be able to click on the links and read the documents, and download them for free, if you like.
The second tab will be the Store. It will be a link to my Amazon.com store, which I’m gradually stocking with books I’ve read relevant to the topics we talk about here (and sometimes to books that aren’t relevant. but that are good books). I’ll use books that I’ve read myself or that I know by reputation to be worthwhile. The thing is that I cannot put the store here because of WordPress.com policies. Therefore, I’ve created another blog, The Caravanserai, at turmarion.blogspot.com. The Store tab will have a link to it. On that homepage, to the right, is the link to the Amazon store–click on it, and it will take you there. As time goes on, I may add other items to the store; but I want to see how things play out first.
Finally, the second blog won’t have as much original content as this one–it always amazes me that some people have the energy to keep up multiple blogs–but I will put up content there. There will be movies and music, just as there are here; there will be some original essays, probably more dealing with literature, book reviews, and pop culture; and while I’ll mirror some of the content from here to there, I’ll not duplicate it all. I’ll have some original stuff at the Caravanseri that’s not here, so it’ll be worth checking out in its own right. Meanwhile, I’ll continue with business as usual here.
It will take me a little while to get everything up and running, so please be patient. Meanwhile, I hope you continue to enjoy the content here and that you get something out of it!