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Melodrama and Metaphysics

Bruce asked Adam,

“Two terms that I notice are prominent in your recent discourse — “melodrama” and “metaphysic”: I’d like to know your definitions for both. Is a “metaphysic” just any way of adding meaning to the world including non-minded, non-sentient, non-human being, or does the term, for you, imply a specific range of theological doctrines?”

I replied: metaphysics has many connotations and I use it loosely and generically sometimes, other times more specifically, but mainly I mean by it a structure of presuppositions that give meaning to the world. but it doesn’t “add” meaning since the world is basically made of meaning. so everything assumes a metaphysics of one sort or another. Plotinus’s “all is contemplation”

… traditionally metaphysics differed from ontology, but in my style of philosophy, ontology and metaphysics are basically synonymous because I have an ontology of relations.

…structures, relations are what is. there is no ultimate structure or fundamental entities to structure, but a structuring process, an infinite semiosis, a mutable relation. This is characteristic of a postmodern metaphysic. Relations all the way down. no fundamental metaphysic as foundation to ground ontology, but indeed a metaphysics of grounding, of establishing relation in judicious creative determination.

melodrama is the dramatic category I use to characterize one of the ways a structure handles difference. if it defines itself simply against difference or the other, it is melodrama. if it defines itself primarily through difference as a medium then it is usually tragic or comedic. (first as tragedy then as farce?) I am especially interested in drama that transcends the usual melodramatic structure of essentialized oppositions but is more than just character drama (tragedy/comedy) in that it also gives a metaphysics, it illuminates a truth by giving us a way of seeing the world, without defining itself against its other. this is done in postmodern philosophy though metacommentary on difference itself, and in drama I believe by reflexively examining meaning making, by adding a meta level to the character drama, by looking at the way character determines the world instead of simply characterizing the world in an essentialized foundational way as traditional myth and hero journeys tend to do. Instead it maps pragmatically the way certain meanings work or do not in a given value climate.

“The Leftovers” for instance critiques religion and argues for the faith in meaning at the same time, not as foundational truth but as creative act in dialog with the truth of human connection and relation. My essay “It Could Have Been Otherwise” delves into this idea in more detail, arguing for an ethics grounded not in the moral certitude of melodrama but in the pragmatic utility of coherence and symmetry across the most difference and change (which I am at pains to describe scientifically and differentiatie from immunity to change).

In a sense tragedy always had this structure when it is layered into a myth and a community ethic. “The Wire” for instance is very much in the classical mode, a tragic vision that nonetheless gains mythic level meaning in the last scene as a comic vision of the cosmos. But the positive message is vague as it often is in tragedy or comedy. It tends to be an argument for compassion, like in the large comic visions of the east–world as play, tragic suffering in detail, comic in panorama. But what I am seeing in postmodern media is that the hero myth is evolving as well as comedy and tragedy– science and art are integrating, and all of this is because of the materialization of the spiritual as virtuality. Which is the main focus of the essay mentioned. We are working out a more modern version of the ancient spiritual vision of the cosmic play as a drama of character formation and a new metaphysics is arising out of that: a metaphysics of difference and value fulfilment. not just of compassion and appreciation of difference or the conquest of one kind over an other, but of the actual pattern of mutual determination–not just in codependent arising, as in the simple eastern scheme, but the evolution of all through all: the evolutionary scheme taught in the more esoteric tradition.

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