There are a lot of general shifts in humanity that are fastly approaching. Many of them are products of ongoing conflicts that will come to a head. To predict which way we go is a fool’s errand. One I gladly take part in because it allows my imagination to fly. It also is a great source of optimism one day, and severe remorse the next.
One of these conflicts seems to be realism versus romanticism. It seems as though we are going to need to make a choice as our world becomes smaller, the white noise becomes denser, and our technology becomes more human. That choice is to whether to carry on down the realism path, or to change course and twirl down the romantic one.
To talk about either we must first define what I mean. Looking at art throughout the known history of humanity, you can see distinct patterns. One thing that you can pick out is whether pop culture was in a romanticism or realism period. When I say romantic, I do not mean boy meets girl and I do not mean THE romanticism period (though closely related), I mean soft metaphors and the allowance of insinuation and abstract connection. Realism, being the opposite, is an attempt to define as much as possible in no uncertain terms.
Could be as simple as saying it is the difference between emotional and logical driven thought? Maybe.
Music, movies, musicals all carry one direction or the other. The 1950s was a very romantic period culturally. Music carried a “I want to hold your hand” sense of phrasing. Musicals had dance numbers that illustrated strife among two clashing cultures. Some might say it was in response to a real world that was quite devastating at the time. Others say it’s just part of a cycle.
Either way, I do feel weary to look so close in our past. Either we are cycling much faster, or I am making the great mistake of examining an organism that I, myself, am a part of. I think it is the latter – though, one could argue that that is always the case.
We have been moving towards a realism that frightens many. Now we see in gory detail the death of a man, or have two people on stage act out intercourse, or sing specifically about our loss of faith. This is not an across the board, everyone must sign on thing, but rather a general trend. A trend in the pop culture that is reflected in what art is pushed forward more often. There is a large part of society that hunger for the thinking to return. There was a lot of this in the 60s, and it brought about much culturally. But that has stalled out, it seems. Many push to continue down that path, but there is a wind that urges us to step in a different direction.
But this realism comes with a price. Some say it is the path towards enlightenment, but it means asking questions of religion, not hiding from conversations you rather not have, and taking control of your own destiny. Those of the romantic persuasion believe enlightenment comes from outside – that you hold tight the shameful thoughts, rely on a greater power to explain what you do not understand, and believe that if you stay true to some taught set of principles that there will be good. What kind of good? Well we don’t get specific, that would make it to real.
When I line up a shot on the pool table, I often think about this in another way. I can think consciously of how I’m going to angle the shot, move my arm, tap the cue – and I’ll probably miss. If I just let go and let my body shoot naturally, I’ll make it. Sometimes. Though, never consistently. That is why some say it is better to have a few drinks before playing pool.
The truth is, in pool and in life, the best combination is both. To try to understand everything at once and define it – well that is the recipe for disaster. But to insist on a real presentation, but find that sweet spot where your arm lines up on its own, your mind visualizes the bank shot, and your hand acts on its own accord in lowering the cue… well sometimes it just feels right, and there is no way you are missing that shot.
I would like to think, however, that the romantic part of that equation is a product of a lot of labor put into a more realistic time. Gather information and understanding until it becomes a part of who you are. True understanding of something on a sub-conscious level, even if you can’t explain it in words. Which is why some paintings will invoke emotion, yet you can’t explain why. Which is why certain commercials can persuade you that you are in danger and need to vote a particular way. It also allows a well-practiced athlete or musician to perform as they think of what they want to do, as oppose to how they do it. It allows groups of folks in a society who are emotionally driven, to still adhere to logical truths obtained in the past. Sometimes. Though, never consistently.
What I’m curious about is where we are going to go. There are two definite sides in our leadership right now. And they are less about policy, perspective, racism, social class, any of it, than this idea, this notion, of whether we prefer a more romantic or realistic view of the world.
Maybe that is too simplistic. And I’ll admit that there are much more complicated parts at play. But it can be reduced to that often. When I do reduce it to that, I can’t help but to notice how easy it was to do so. Of course that may be my own biases at work. Then again, I notice the romantic/realistic split even among very like-minded individuals.
Ultimately, I am curious who will win the current cultural battles making generation Z what it is. Will they start gliding towards a more romantic perception, or continual down the road of realism. Science and technology will go on regardless. And while they will be affected greatly by where pop culture heads, it is more the arguments that are shaped by this… and the art… than the outcome. At least I hope so.
Regardless, between "Fashion Police" and "The Voice", I am entirely convinced (not really) that we will become a world like the "Hunger Games" after all is said and done.