A Report on PostConsumer Reports: Explaining this blog's title

I have never taken the time to explain where this blog's title comes from or why I chose it.  To be honest, I think I have only had two people ask me about it ever.  Even so, I have always liked the name and thought it deserves an explanation. PostConsumer Reports is playfully ironic and lends itself to numerous layers of meaning, which to me is always a good route to take.

So this week I thought I would take some time to write about the title just so it is out there; just in case any one ever asks and I need a place to point them to.

Here are some of the potential meanings of the title PostConsumer Reports:

Introduction: The title of the blog is a portmanteau of Post-consumer waste, Consumer Reports, and Post-modernism.  A number of the explanations bellow will unpack various meanings out of these source titles.

1. It is a play off of all the "post" terms I was introduced to in college and seminary that were created to describe certain philosophical, religious, or artistic systems of thought or movements.  The most obvious of these terms is "postmodernism" or "postmodern", itself a typically self-referential or parodic system.  But the "post" title also refers to post-Christian, post-Christendom, post-colonialism, post-structuralism, post-Enlightenment, a post-911 world, and post-human, along with many other terms people have created in an attempt to describe the phenomenon of being in a time where something once was but is now not, that is, a time when we are "post" something; WE are happening AFTER something else has happened; we are "post" this thing. I have always loved the paradox that exists in these "post" words between utter arrogance and utter dependence, arrogant by the fact that people think they have the ability and insight to declare they or their time is "post" anything so large a subject as Modernism or Christianity, and then dependent by the fact that they completely need the old title in order to form their new title.  That is, they have not come up with a new term to describe what they are (as in the "Baroque" period follows the "Renaissance", they are merely saying what they are by describing what they are not, ("I am not Modern, I am Post-Modern!").  It is an apophatic way of describing oneself.  The utter unoriginality of it gives me a chuckle.  There is potentially no end to creating "post" titles of things, which to me makes the whole enterprise ridiculous.  (Could you imagine the early followers of Jesus taking on the title "Post-Jews" instead of "The Way" or "Christians"?)

So, by choosing the title PostConsumer Reports I am essentially choosing a title I myself find annoying and problematic and in that annoyance I take ironic delight.  I am only contributing to the mess and that is funny to me.

2. Even as the title plays off of all the "post" terms that have arisen in the last century, it reflects a sincere desire of mine, which is to be a post-consumer, which to me means to be a person who goes against an American consumerism that focuses on purchasing products as a source of narcissistic pleasure and then disposes of those products when their use-value has diminished. Thus, in regards to the title, I wish my consumerism to be in the past.  I am now in a time after my consumerism.  I am no longer a self-centered consumer who makes purchasing decisions based off of hedonistic pragmatic needs and wants all to be discarded when their value to me is used up.  Now I am someone who partakes of the world and shares with the world. I am in a mutual—not parasitic—relationship with people, art, and creation.

3. And yet, the tag-line of the blog is "Thoughts on art, faith, and the intersection of the two, all written after consumption."  Well, what does that mean exactly?  Have I already consumed the works of art I write about like the consumer I am trying not to be or do I write as someone who is no longer a consumer, that is, a post-consumer?  Well, it would seem my tag-line is intentionally trying to convolute the approach my readers and I take to art.  As I stated above I think terms with "post" in the title are more than a bit presumptive, and thus I think we get a bit ahead of ourselves in declaring us as "post-consumers".  It is not so easy to shake the idols of our culture.  Perhaps, is my assertion, we are not as post-consumer as we think.  So, the title's ambivalence lies in the fact that we are all, both writer and reader, simultaneously consumers and (hopefully) post-consumers. 

4. Again, another irony: "consumer" is not really all that bad of a word, but is merely descriptive. In order to understand art or a concept you have to take it in to yourself (i.e. consume it) and that consumption is one step in the natural process of attaining meaning in our world and then reciprocally creating our own meaning. So when I write on works of art or matters of faith, I have (assumedly) experienced my subjects at length and to some depth, given my subject lots of thought, and then come up with my own thoughts as a response (hopefully) worth reading.

5. Then, "PostConsumer" draws from the idea/existence of post-consumer waste. This is both a revolting/degrading title and a title with hope.  On the one hand it implies the art I discuss on this site is discardable and only temporarily useful, something that no one wants, like the cellophane wrapper on a frozen dinner box (a use of irony, mainly). That art is superfluous and ultimately unnecessary, certainly not something one would keep and try to preserve.  On the other hand the title implies that once the art has become waste it will be made into something new.  Indeed, putting it in the context of paper use, there is a chance that the same particles of paper could be used over and over again going from one incarnation to another over continuous generations (e.g., tissues, to toilet paper, to a notebook, to an egg carton, to a cardboard box). The artistic parallel is that a work of art will always be consumed by a viewer/listener/reader only to find new life by inspiring the next generation of artists. Art is constantly be discarded and forgotten but art is also constantly being remade and renewed.

6. Finally, and obviously, the title is a play off of the magazine and public institution Consumer Reports.  So it is 1.) a playful parody but again it is 2.) also ironic.  I find it funny that a majority of the space on this blog is taken up with me making recommendations (in a more artful fashion than a typical review) of different books, films, musicians, etc. in a way that could be compared to Consumer Reports' lauded approach to purchasing the most efficient washing machine or the pickup truck with the best gas mileage.  Partaking of art is never about considering what is "the best" of something in the same way that a consumer product needs to be "the best" at what it is designed to do.  Instead, art is about experiencing meaning through the truth, beauty, and goodness of a work.  In other words, art is about the intangibles whereas consumer products (although often beautiful in themselves) are about the tangibles (e.g. energy consumption and length of potential use). Again, this is funny to me, juxtaposing the practicalities of buying products with the transcendent qualities of art.

Anyway, I hope you feel the tension with me and get the joke.
Happy reading.
Happy postconsuming!

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