Friday, August 16, 2013

Lady Gaga, Marina Abramovic, and the crisis of liberal materialism

Recently, Lady Gaga put together a video of herself doing some of the exercises in the Abramovic Method, partly I think to raise money for the new center that is being crowd sourced, with the pull of lots of nudity. What I find fascinating about the Abramovic Method, based on Abramovic's experience in performance art, is that in her video explaining it she uses explicitly spiritual terms, deriving them from Orthodox Christianity and other traditions, and the practice in Gaga's video involves large crystals and such.

Surely, as rational beings, such things are to be scoffed at, beneath our consideration, right? To me, the fact that this exists, and is being given a big push by one of the biggest stars out there, points to an awareness by some of the dead end that the rational, liberal, materialist mindset has lead us to. Not the values of liberalism per se, although those are not inviolate, or the spirit of those values, but the scientific worldview that was born of Enlightenment skepticism. Quite frankly, we can talk about skepticism till we're blue in the face, creating a culture of criticism that shoots down any idea that doesn't fit into the dominant paradigm, but in the end we're left with two things: first, a kind of blank nihilism that leaves us with the universe as a very limited place, and secondly, the lived experience of things that do not fit into that mold, that go beyond it implicitly. Which is not to say spirituality in the classical sense, necessarily, but also the idea that there are dimensions to emotional and experiential reality that are not reducible to neurotransmitters, hormones, and evolutionary psychology, a dubious field at best that infers behavior from unobservable hypothetical events that supposedly happened in the distant past.

People have a choice: either a very sophisticated critique of virtually everything that leads absolutely nowhere, or the very present lived life, which although sometimes conceptualized in crude ways, at least frees us from the prison of ever present criticism with no productive answers.


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