For me, it begins with a sensibility—one that says, “I know everything can be doubted. I know everything can be deconstructed, questioned, and critiqued. I know that truth is elusive and contingent—provisional at best—and meaning: fugitive and fleeting. Open to perspective. Open to unsettling—never certain, never set. I know this, and have experienced it—have felt the vertigo of one fixed worldview (after another) fall out from underfoot. But…
I’m not done with meaning yet.”
For me, a distinctly metamodern spirituality begins after the pillars have come crashing down and the great edifices of myth and religion lie shattered at your feet. There the fields before you lie littered with erstwhile truths and formerly compelling fictions. Such are the landscapes haunted by the specters of meaninglessness and nihilism, true. But these you pass by also, leaving them wailing their sirens’ song, knowing: they can only offer death.
No, there is meaning yet…
But where? “Open your eyes at last, and see / The desolation of reality,” taunts the voice of disillusionment in Richard Wilbur’s poem “At Moorditch”—to which the poet replies: “‘This cannot be the world,’ I said. ‘Nor will it, / Till the heart’s crayon spangle and fulfill it.” That is a special kind of coloring—one that takes up the mantle to willfully enchant the world. Meaning isn’t simply given, it is made, endeavored out of circumstance from the inner grit now worthy to be called a “soul.”
With this, the metamodernist is given ruler and a compass: “Get to work.” The myths and meanings of traditions were but constructs? Get constructing! You sought, amidst a meaning crisis sinking us, a sense of meaning to your life? Then make your life a life of meaning-making! What more urgent and important aspiration could you hope for than to be a midwife to new worldviews and assist Divinity in its emergence? To report for duty, building the Cathedral of our budding purpose?
For that is where this sensibility leads, I think. Beyond the deconstruction of reality, fresh-leveled fields of possibility spread out. The time turns ripe for reconstruction.
Here, myth returns—not as a set of propositions to affirm, but as a task, a labor, an opus, a work. Here God resurfaces—not for your worship, but your service. God is the task; the building is a Purpose. Divinity in evolution is the Church we work at—Meaning’s shifting; Meaning’s metamorphosis. That is the labor that we labor at. Spilling the paint of Spirit out to spangle and fulfill it.
And, if we look, we’ll see: that in this great endeavor, we are not alone. Not only are we aided by a ragtag band of fellow upstart hopefuls—reconstructionists like us, emerging from the urgent, existential moment—but the long procession of our ancestors, who’ve crafted Meaning just as well through all the stages of our history. We join the vanguard of an ancient rite—to shift Divinity. To make it move. To bring new life. To make the Spirit at the edge of being sing and bring new light.
Taking the torch from them, we take our station. We, too, arise: to carve our little niche of temple out to the Unknown God. Seers for the Great Unseeing. Prophets for His Muteness. Helping the Holy whole Himself from the incarnate world—an eternally emergent Prince of Pieces. Praise.
And so, what started in the rubble rises to new forms. The twilight of the idols dawns upon the icons of an endlessly re-resurrecting Lord. And all the desolation of reality that scoured and scared is taught a coloring that fails forever in its drawing of Perfection.
Everything can be questioned; nothing’s set. Should none of that prove true, well…
there is meaning yet.
This piece originally appeared as a column in Issue 37 of evolve magazine:
Can I color outside the lines?
Beautiful. This Ragtag Reconstructionist is along with you for the ride. He'll even bring along a few heart crayons to share as well.