Trends. Fashions. Movements. Styles. In just a quarter-century of living, I’ve already experienced my fair share of these. Whether we’re talking about clothing, cars, environmental care, or TV sitcoms, fads come and go. There even seems to be a cyclical nature to popular culture.
For several months I’ve been casually following Brett McCracken’s blog as he has lead up to the recent release of his book, Hipster Christianity. The whole hipster culture has been intriguing to me. As someone who has often felt she was born into the wrong generation, I’ve loved the resurgence of things like fedoras and record players. I don’t love everything about it (who can actually fit into skinny jeans, anyway??), but being hipster was so whimsical.
At least, it seemed that way. But as I’ve read more about this cultural movement, I’ve realized that being hipster isn’t so much about whimsy as it is about irony. As I was working this out in my mind, my roommate shared this graph of the evolution of hipster fashion. This graph couldn’t have been more timely for me, because it really captures what I see as being at the core of hipster culture. It’s poking fun at stuff. It’s removing oneself from truly and deeply appreciating something in order to make fun of it, or to use it as social commentary, in short, to be ironic. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing suspenders or flapper dresses. But after a few forays into some Chicago neighborhoods that I suspect are archetypes of hipster life, I have to wonder: what are the effects of this movement on people? What happens when life is enveloped by irony?
Here’s my brash statement for this post: I’m not sure that irony and joy can share the same space.
Think about it: is irony a true and deep and sincere enjoyment of something? No. It’s sardonic, separate, intending to communicate the opposite of what is actually said or done. I know I’m not doing a fantastic job of contrasting irony and sincerity, but come on. When you see someone sincerely, earnestly, honestly enjoying someone or something, you know it. And there’s nothing ironic about it.
So I think that a possible outcome of too much irony, maybe too much of the hipster lifestyle, being in our lives is that joy becomes much more difficult to live in. We become accustomed to taking a step back from our experiences enough to search for the irony, to judge whether it’s cool and hip instead of glorifying to God. I want to make a strong distinction here between humor and irony. Laughter is a gift from God! I have experienced many awesome moments in church services when something was accidentally said by a speaker or someone wore a tie that was just wrong, and laughter bubbled up, and it was great. But that’s not the same thing as always seeing through people and events, instead of seeing them.
Maybe this has become a little bit of a rant. That was not my goal in this post. But what I really think is that joy is sincere and wholehearted and fully experienced. I believe the same is true of love. Love is humble, undeserved, unconditional, hoping and enduring all things. These fads and trends will disappear, maybe to resurface in another hundred years. But love lasts forever.