Over the past year, we’ve learned quite a lot about life in Mexico. Different cultures obviously have different sets of rules, different sets of practices, and of course, a different way of looking at the world. In Mexico, the reigning worldview seems to be one with Modernist tendencies. Mexico’s UNAM university has held onto Modernist ideals since its inception. I’ve been told by some philosophy students that there are some teachers and professors who are starting to dip their toes into Post-modernism, but for the most part, the thrust is still highly focused on Modernism.
And just to let you know, if you are reading this and you’re from the United States or Western Europe, you are living in a Post-modern world. If you’re under about 40 years old, that’s probably all that you’ve ever known. You can be anyone with any belief system and still be highly influenced by Post-modern ideas. Some might not go as far as others in their assumptions and conclusions, but we can’t escape its influence on our lives. It may not shape our highest and most intimate values, but it is the underlying lens with which a culture interprets the world, for better or worse. I believe that all worldviews have both negative and positive qualities, and that those positive qualities can be redeemed.
I admit that I’m not a philosopher, but I tend to interpret worldviews with the help of the art history movements that I studied for my minor of Art History in college. With that in mind, take a look at this mural that can be seen near the law building at the UNAM. In a nutshell, this mural shows the epitome of what Modernists hope for: conquering death through knowledge. It depicts men discovering fire, conquering the use of it, and through industry, science and technology, eventually discovering the means to overcome death and achieve eternal life.
In Europe, hope in Modernism basically died after World War II. The people there saw first hand that man’s finest and smartest machines – the machines of war – caused only death and destruction, and that humans were destroying themselves instead of striving for the Modernist ideal. You can see this shift visually by comparing art and its themes in Europe before and after the war. In the United States, hope in Modernism probably died sometime during the 50’s. (It is obviously a matter of some debate – this is my opinion.)
In a way, Post-modernism was born out of disillusionment with Modernism. It was born out of a clear realization of the depressing depths of human nature that were so apparent after the war. Post-modernism rejects an ultimate hope in man and its inventions, but at the same time doesn’t necessarily replace it with anything specific. It says that there is no one idea to hold on to.
I applaud Modernists for having hope in something, but the particular hope they have chosen will always elude and fail them. I applaud Post-Modernists for realizing that human nature is an untrustworthy thing to put ultimate hope in, but will it really hold up over time without something concrete to put its hope in? It is very hard to argue philosophically that you can put hope in either everything or nothing, but that’s what many of us try to do. So where is our hope? What is our hope? I believe that our Post-modern culture is dying to have the answer to this question, albeit that we often approach it with fairly intense skepticism. I personally believe that Jesus Christ is just as applicable as the answer to the question of hope for Modernism and Post-Modernism as he has been for worldviews throughout history.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. – Hebrews 6:19-20