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In the first decade of the new millennium, several articles were calling for a new paradigm of arts and culture, to replace Postmodernism, which had clearly become outmoded and no longer reflective of the dominant creative spirit of our times.

Beginning in 2010, other cultural theorists in Europe, America, and Australia built upon those ideas. This is the way new ideas spread and grow. This attempt to define Metamodernism is not the first of its kind, and I hope it will not be the last.  It proposes to establish basic principles that are captured by the new paradigm.

  • Above all, Metamodernism is about a way of living, as well as a way of thinking and feeling.  It is not a set of prescriptive rules, nor is it about abstract thought without effect in the world we live in. It is about being and becoming – individually and collectively.
  • Metamodernism draws upon, and distinguishes, the two dominant cultural/artistic paradigms of the twentieth century.  It returns, unashamedly, to Modernism’s  search for meaning, common bonds, and values, but through the lens of Postmodernism’s knowledge, perspective, diversity, skepticism.  Metamodernism ackowledges its debt to its predecessors, and does not abandon them.
  • Metamodernism is founded on innocence, on the blessings and wisdom of each new child who is born to us.  It posits that in the absence of a foundation of innocence, there is nothing to build upon.  Innocence is how life begins in this world.
  • Metamodernism has no dogma.  It is attached to no particular religious faith or absence of religious faith.  It is attached to no national boundaries or other artificial barriers between people.  It attempts to determine a “Highest Common Factor” from the diversity of spiritual expressions, across time and across artificial boundaries.
  • Openness to Metamodernism involves openness to vulnerability and occasional error, as apparent risks in the search for values. Without risks there is no opportunity for growth.
  • Metamodernism includes a search for joy, and the cherishing of joy when it is found.
  • Some have described Metamodernism as a perpetual oscillation between the two existential poles that have been characterised by the Modern and the Postmodern.  While that metaphor has value, it suggests conditions of uncertainty and individualism that are more characteristic of Postmodernism.  A preferred metaphor for Metamodernism –   which recognises and respects the values and perspectives of Modernism and Postmodernism – is a ship that is being repaired and renovated as it sails, or a palace that is continuously being upgraded and made more beautiful and strong.
  • Becoming is everything.  The journey itself is as important as any imagined destination. And the imagined destination is invariably “home.” As the modernist poet T.S. Eliot put it, “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.”
  • Even before it had a name, Metamodernism was stirring in the 1990s in the hearts of some artists, writers, poets, film-makers, musicians, architects, social groups and leaders, and others from many walks of life – public and private, exalted and humble.  The limitations of Postmodernism’s detachment and irony were being felt and recognised, and the risks of sincerity, of drawing on the wisdom of childhood and the vagaries of experience, were being welcomed.  Those who were becoming dissatisfied with Postmodernism were not actively seeking a paradigm – they were looking for a better way of understanding their shared experiences, of synthesising, of  bonding, of engagement.  Metamodernism is nothing more than a label to attach to these longings.
  • The word – Metamodernism – is not complicated.  “Meta” comes from the Greek, meaning “after” or “later in time,” sometimes enhanced by the notion of obtaining a higher stage of  natural development. For example, “metamorphosis” describes an animal’s (say a tadpole’s, or a caterpillar’s) changes progressively in structure or habits during its normal growth.
  • Metamodernism is based on the premise that there is much more that unites us – all of us – than divides us.  A question that follows is” “Who is ‘us’?'”  For the Metamodernist, “us” is not limited to any particular gender or creed or race or ethnicity or sexual orientation, or ability or age.  “Us” is not even limited to our species, or our generation, or to the living, or to the animate.  The earth itself, and all it contains, and all it has ever contained, and all of the Mystery that has always enveloped it, is “us.”
  • Metamodernism is premised on a simple and childlike trust: that there are such things as truth and value, and that the self may be awakened to them. For example, within our selves we may discover sparks of divinity (however that word may be conceived from culture to culture and person to person) that were present all along. Metamodernism suggests that the discovery, recognition, and expression of such truths and values is worth the search to find them.
  • To put it most simply, Metamodernism is the current iteration of the eternal search for the existence and manifestation of love in all its forms.

Gary Forrester

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