Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On what side of sentimental

Recently I came across this opinion piece in the NYT and thought, it would be worthy of so much more thought and discussion. The title intrigued me because in my ordinary, everyday life I can get blind-sided by cynicism. It can happen when I watch News that triggers ranting but the next minute, I’m cooing over the cuteness of an angora rabbit named Honeysuckle. It happens so often, I think I suffer from a schizophrenic mix of cynical sentimentality.

In How to Live without Irony, Christy Wampole writes:
“What would it take to overcome the cultural pull of irony? Moving away from the ironic involves saying what you mean, meaning what you say and considering seriousness and forthrightness as expressive possibilities, despite the inherent risks. It means undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values. It might also consist of an honest self-inventory.
Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?”  How to Live Without Irony by Christy Wampole, NYT Opinionator.

I would like to honestly embrace some of Wampole’s ideas. I felt tender about her suggestion that we consider what our lives might be like if we lived away from the harsh light of irony and public display and were just ourselves – not only in how we dress, but in other ways. We need sincerity and humility. We need to quench anxiety and envy. We should resist the pressure to keep standards that have nothing to do with godliness and more to do with public image or materialism. 

 That leaves me wondering what to think about the interactive, on-line Advent Calendar that I have secretly loved and am now publicly disclosing. Yes, I’ve opened it each day this month. I’ve decorated a tree and made a snowman. Some would call it The Pike’s Peak of Sentimentality.
Granddaughter and Grandma
Okay, I agree it’s sentimental. Life is hard, I’ve never denied it, but can’t I please have some teeny bits of child-like sweetness? My grandchildren and other kids like this calendar, too. (Last year’s Advent calendar included a few parts of Real Christmas, which partially justified it. I don’t know if this year will be the same.) I would like to like it without apology or fear of being labeled unsophisticated, intellectually inferior, or lacking in cultural blah-blah-blah discernment.
 So if I can encourage you to join me just for a little while?: Let’s enjoy the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, the bubble lights on the tree, gingerbread cookies with red buttons and Aaron Neville’s “Blue Christmas.” We will not worry too much about kitsch because we will still get plenty of Advent readings, King’s Carols, and Hallelujah choruses.

And one more thing, Christy Wampole. What about humor? We need to laugh. My wild “Happy Chair” does make me happy. And it is nothing if not kitschy. Seeing a serious theologian wearing wild socks makes me laugh. And if my casserole dishes and hot pad trivets make me smile because they remind me of my grandmother – isn’t that not just allowable, but good?
"Happy Chair"
 It’s true. I am picking on only one part of Wampole’s thoughtful essay. I wonder if she or I confuse the meaning of irony with cynicism? It would be more fair to her if we discussed the entire piece in context, but I’ve got to get downstairs right now and check on Honeysuckle who is suffering from pasteurella multocida. It is making her dizzy and sick. She can’t even hop around. We are feeling worried and a little sentimental about Anita’s poor bunny.
Honeysuckle is sick
 For so many reasons: O, come Immanuel, come.


Bonnie said...

I got TOAD HALL today and read it cover to cover. LOVE your happy chair. I want one. I think it could be in ANTHROPOLOGIE!! Hope Honeysuckle makes it . Thank you for blessing my day.
YOUR book is Jan. Book Club!!

Bonnie said...

Toad Hall came in the mail today and I read it cover to cover. I always do with uninterrupted time ON the same day. I was blessed.

I think your Happy Chair could be in Anthropologie AND I want one!

Hope Honeysuckle makes it!

deborah said...

I think the online advent calendar is adorable. I didn't know about that! I've had someone send me a Jacqui Lawson card before. If I had grandchildren, I think I would love doing that with them long distance.