I guess I’m all obsessed with “isms” recently. Just got done going off about perfectionism. And yesterday I was thinking about purism. You don’t hear much about Purists now days though. When I was younger I was always hearing people say “I’m a purist.” Maybe it’s a youthful notion. A champion of tradition and the past. Seems romantic, perhaps. I suppose some people forget to get over it.
I always wondered if it I was a reaction to the rapid influx of knowledge that was perpetually bombarding the young as they went out into the world. Becoming a purist was a way to control, filter or exclude overwhelming amounts of conflicting information. Perhaps the world is changing so fast nowadays that to remain a purist and remain functional are incompatible.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite happy for the power of purism to have diminished, which is not to say that we don’t need archivists and historians to remember what was. We do. But purism to me for anyone who had passed beyond college years always smelled of absolutism and significant discomfort with the notion of change. Change is life. Life is change.
But if purism is diminished, then what has taken its place? The need to make one self distinct via proclamations is a void that will be filled.
I thought maybe snobbery had taken its place. But snobbery, the shallow attempt to elevate oneself through rather arbitrary beliefs or behaviors, has been with us for a long time and I haven’t noticed any large resurgence.
Then I thought maybe hipsterism, snobberies poor relation. But then I thought no. A purist would proudly proclaim they are purist. A hipster works hard to disassociate from being hipster (Here is an older but lovely dissection of that hipster attitude: The Sad Science of Hipsterism.
Then I thought perfectionism. And again no. Perfectionism is certainly a bane on our society. (See my rant on that here: Expectations: Perfectionism’s Evil Child. But perfectionist though they may proclaim the title, often enough know it’s neurotic, (which still somehow doesn’t stop them from foisting it upon the rest of us).
Maybe it’s Extremists. They’re passionate. They’re kind of snobby. Somewhat absolutist in their all-or-nothing attitude. Climbing the biggest mountains, snowboarding down an 8,000 foot slope, running triple-ultra marathons. Go big or go home. They shout the word without saying it.
Here’s a good anthem for the Extremist: Why You Should Stop Hacking Your Life. Pretty good argument to follow your passion. But then goes too far for me in that again you need to be all in and be extremely obsessive or obsessively extreme.
I love the passion for life part of the mantra. I want people to be passionate, throw off the shackles of their Mehness (I talk more about that here: Talking about Meh Generation). Though most of it has to do with either physical thrill seeking or total obsessiveness, neither of which are in my nature so my passion seems dull compared to the extremists. Everyone has a different threshold of arousal. Some need more stimulation than others. This is not a good or a bad condition. It just is.
Extremist’s idea of stimulation is climbing a rock face. Mine is thinking a radical thought. I have passion. It’s just manifested in a different way. “I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine” as they like to say. Which isn’t to say Extremists aren’t intellectual. I just wanted to use that line.
Why can’t we have Passionism: a way to be passionate about something without being extreme. I can get into that.
So maybe Extremism is the new Purism. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I know I have the same basic reaction to both so maybe that at least puts them in the same bucket. If the Extremists get annoyed with me maybe we have a winner. So go out and explore your passion, however you want to.