Friday, April 9, 2021


What Will Remain?

Of our culture, the culture of my generation, roughly the Boomers, after we have, virtually all, left the scene, which is to say in about 15 years?

I am ill-equipped to answer the question, being as I am embedded in it, but perhaps we can find instruction in what remains of the culture of our mothers and fathers, of roughly the Greatest Generation.  And I don't mean just the figures of art and culture and politics who were great (which is not the same as to say moral exemplars of course) in their own right and thus deserve to pass into the world-historical, like Dwight Eisenhower, MLK and JFK, Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman and Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I mean as well the bit players who helped to define the cultural landscape, largely through television.  Those would include people like Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Walter Cronkite, William F. Buckley and Arnold Stang (peas in a pod those last two).  The "Merrie Melodies."  The June Taylor Dancers.  The Little Rascals.  The Pasadena Horses of the Rose Parade.

Much of this has died already with the passing of the "GG."   But there will be a second death, and a more categorical one, when our own generation withers away, for we are the ones who remember it, the culture of our mothers and fathers, from our childhood and from the recollections passed on by them.

And likewise, our culture will truly die, leaving only the world-historical, when our children have in turn departed this world.

Who among us truly believes that our grandchildren, then, will know or care about any of this?  The more nerdy among them may know that a man first set foot on the moon in 1969, or that there once was a world without instant communication devices at our fingertips.  That is all.

And even the world-historical?  That gets defined in large part in the academy, and the academy is populated now, and no doubt will be populated then, by the anti-historical, standing around the pit with shovels in their hands, shivering at the thrill, at the raw prospect, of covering it all with dirt.

Carl Jung would say, no doubt, that vestiges will be left in the Collective Unconscious.  The vestiges will be made manifest in "synchronicities." A man will see a beetle resting in the sun on his window sill, and at the very same moment his Ever-Present Music Source will dredge up, for comic effect perhaps, the tune and the words, in meta-synchronicity -- "This happened once before; I came to your door; no reply..."

But, axiomatically, the Collective Unconscious contains everything, so false comfort to be taken in this.  If they do not evaporate, the bodily fluids of the dead seep eventually into the lower strata of the groundwater, and with effort traces of the DNA can be retrieved and identified.  But likewise of the DNA of that same beetle on the shelf.  We all know it in our bones then, that a great leveling is effected by Time, to "put us in our place."

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Joe - two things:

    First, I see your point about the staying power of the world-historical vs the bit players, but I like to think that the first man on the moon will fall into the first category. Maybe that’ll happen only if humans go back there. As for a world without instant communication devices, I’ve pretty much already forgotten it.

    Second, I don’t get the paragraph about the academy. Who are the anti-historicals you refer to?