It's of some interest that the lively arts of the millennial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool. It's maybe the vestiges of the Romantic glorification of Weltschmerz, which means world-weariness or hip ennui. Maybe it's the fact that most of the arts here are produced by world-weary and sophisticated older people and then consumed by younger people who not only consume art but study it for clues on how to be cool, hip - and keep in mind that, for kids and younger people, to be hip and cool is the same as to be admired and accepted and included and so Unalone. Forget so-called peer-pressure. It's more like peer-hunger. No? We enter a spiritual puberty where we snap to the fact that the great transcendent horror is loneliness, excluded encagement in the self. Once we've hit this age, we will now give or take anything, wear any mask, to fit, be part-of, not be Alone, we young. The U.S. arts are out guide to inclusion. A how-to. We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears. And then it's stuck there, the weary cynicism that saves us from gooey sentiment and unsophisticated naiveté. ... Hal, who's empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes is) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and gerenally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile... (694)So there I was, reading this passage, and I realized that it very well could be describing me. I know, I know, part of the cool thing about reading fiction is identifying with a character and then feeling good when this character succeeds, but I try to avoid that and be objective and all. And me trying to be objective says I strongly identify with this passage. So now my cynicism and jaded irony is merely a generational fad? I thought I was being real. I feel as disappointed as a child who has been promised a pony and gets a plastic idol instead. As disappointed as a rat formerly on a variable-ratio schedule but switched to extinction mode and has a really long stint of pressing that little bar without any reward (this was me trying to describe my disappointment instead of saying "words fail me"). My self-concept is ruined! ...oh well.
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest