While reading an article about preaching this week, a good article mind you, the author used a word I have not seen in a while. It is not an archaic words. Originally coined in 1979 by Jean Francois Lyotad, its not even an old word.
But I think it is now a word that is becoming or has become a passé.
The word is “post-modern.”
Seeing this word after a long time, I started wondering about its usage over last few decades. It was once the buzz word of the university, coffee shops and even the church. It was used in conversations about art, architecture and most certainly in discussions over the meaning of language and words.
But now it seems as if people are tired of the word.
Did it simply run it course?
Did some linguistic trend come to a close?
Was it replaced by another equally popular word?
Have we hit the market saturation of things “post-modern?”
Thinking about where the word post-modern wandered off to and how it has fallen on hard times, I wondered if it really went anywhere.
If you think about what comprises culture, it is the collective beliefs, activities and values of the majority of its population. When culture is pervasive it is unseen. Most of the time it goes unnoticed. It is the water we swim in, as the expression goes. Unless, of course, something happens to cause us to stop and account for our water, our culture.
There are times when a fish pays attention to its water. Times when the water is being changed. Old water out, new water in. Or when the fish is moved from it temporary residents in a Ziplock bag at the country fair, to big new bowl in child’s room.
It is at the transition periods when we are forced to noticed major cultural changes. It is when our status quo is upset or destabilized that we tend to look around to see whats happening.
I think this is true for the word “post-modern.” At first we noticed it as it began to change our culture at the end for of Modernity and at the start of Post-Modernity. During this change of culture we lifted our collective heads to surveyed the shifting landscapes, wondering what happened? This is when we all became excited or sacred of the post-modern approach. Books written, both for and against. Lecture were given. Sermon preached. Many a cappuccino was drained around the topic of Post-Modernism, Post-Modernity or things Post-Modern. These kinds of large cultural shifts typically are not quick. There are significant overlap between era as one paradigms moves in and one moves out. And they are not without casualties. So there was plenty of time to hear the word, study the word and come to terms with the word.
But has the word “post-modern” just faded away? Or does its lack of use signify the end of the transition from the Modern to Post-Modern? Are we so throughly post-modern or submerge in its cultural ethos that we no longer feel the excitement or dread its coming? Has it fully arrived making the word obsolete? Has it beliefs, actives and values become the prevailing culture of the majority? Is it now the water we swim in while awaiting the next seismic shift in cultural to grab our attention?
Time will tell.