Reposted from February 6, 2010.
When I had my crisis of faith, I felt like I was losing everything. Without God and the promise of immortality, what was the point of it all?
I’ve written before that in some ways, there is less purpose without God, and in some ways there’s more. And though I personally find naturalism to be enchanting, I know many people find it disenchanting. They think naturalism leaves them in a universe that is ultimately indifferent and absurd, and their two options are cynicism and postmodern irony.
Are cynicism and irony the only plausible responses to a universe without intrinsic meaning or value?
A growing crowd of passionate persons would say “No.” Their movement has been dubbed the New Sincerity.
What is the New Sincerity?
What is The New Sincerity? Think of… Evel Knievel. Let’s be frank. There’s no way to appreciate Evel Knievel literally. Evel is the kind of man who defies even fiction, because the reality is too over the top. Here is a man in a red-white-and-blue leather jumpsuit, driving some kind of rocket car. A man who achieved fame and fortune jumping over things. Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind. But by the same token, he isn’t to be taken ironically, either. The fact of the matter is that Evel is, in a word, awesome…
So now, dear reader, you’re in on the Next Big Thing. Something more Hedwig than Rocky Horror; more Princess Bride than Last Unicorn; more Bruce Lee than Chuck Norris. Something new, and beautiful. So join us.
Our greeting: a double thumbs-up. Our credo: “Be More Awesome.” Our lifestyle: “Maximum Fun.” Throw caution to the wind, friend, and live The New Sincerity.
There’s nothing ironic or cynical about Evel Knievel. He’s just awesome. Sincerely awesome.
There was nothing ironic or cynical about Prince’s cover of “Creep,” which transformed Radiohead’s self-loathing lamentation into an uplifting celebration of humanity. Richard Thompson’s folk-guitar cover of “Oops I Did it Again” was conscious of the ridiculousness of the original song, but nonetheless earnestly embraced what is good and beautiful about the Britney Spears hit.
You can see the New Sincerity in the films of Wes Anderson. Wes’ characters are broken and pathetic, but Wes does not revel in irony and cynicism. Instead he cheers them on, warts and all.
You can see the New Sincerity on YouTube, where bug-eyed Noah Kalina became a star by photographing himself every day for 6 years and making a raw timelapse video from the photos. Where young Lim Jeong-hyun became an internet superstar by playing a speed metal version of Pachelbel’s Canon, hunched awkwardly in a chair in his crowded bedroom. Where balding Jud Laipply’s evolution of dance video jump-started his career in inspirational comedy.
You can see the New Sincerity in the directness and wide-eyed wonder of poems by Dave Berman, Catherine Wagner, and Tao Lin. You can hear it in the neo-folk music of Devendra Banhart and Okkervil River.
You can see the New Sincerity in the film The Cult of Sincerity. (Watch it online.) Money quote: “The right thing shouldn’t be doing what makes you happy. What makes you happy should be doing the right thing.”
You can see the New Sincerity in John Krasinski’s character in The Office, in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in 500 Days of Summer, and in Ze Frank.
What people loved about the Susan Boyle phenomenon was the New Sincerity of it all. Susan was deprived of oxygen during birth and later diagnosed with learning disabilities. She was bullied at school. After her father died, she lived alone in the family home with a cat.
Then she decided to be more awesome and live her dream. She took singing lessons and sang at every church and karaoke bar she could find.
And then frumpy Susan Boyle got on the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and blew the audience away with her performance of the very unironic “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. Her performance got over 120 million views on YouTube, and her debut album marked “the best opening week for a female artist’s debut album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.”
Very few people who dare to be more awesome will match the success of Susan Boyle. But we can all be more awesome in our own way.
Hundreds of nearly broke people are traveling around the world, staying for free with strangers via a website called CouchSurfing. Does that interest you? What’s stopping you?
Thousands of average frustrated men are putting aside their egos and learning how to be cool, fun guys who can attract the women they want and show them a good time. Does that interest you? What’s stopping you?
Millions of people are embracing a notion of romantic love that is fully authentic – without dependency, jealousy, obligation, or ownership over another’s sexuality. Does that interest you? What’s stopping you?
You don’t even need to make big changes to live the New Sincerity. Throw water balloons in the summertime. Participate in a flash mob. High-five people without irony.
Of course, we all enjoy good irony at times. And we have our moments of cynicism. But don’t live your life that way.
You’ve got one life to live. Make it the best damn life ever.