"Having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, [the ironist] will nonetheless have said what he wanted to say."
-- Umberto Eco
We live in an age that has lost faith in itself. It is naive to care, gauche to be sincere, and downright suspicious to believe in a better tomorrow. But underneath your cool indifference you probably do care, although you distrust these feelings and you're ashamed to reveal them. Instead, you protect yourself with irony. Irony lets you off the hook and distances you from what you love. But irony also helps you negotiate your faithlessness. When you believe in something but also believe it's foolish to believe in anything, your only honest option is irony. It's how you pay lip service to your nihilism but also vaguely point beyond it.
To have faith today, you must at once affirm your faith and also ironically observe all that makes faith impossible. With one hand you must admit that it's all been done before, that everything is relative, that there's no ground for authenticity, and that every claim to truth is suspect. With the other hand you must stake your claim with all your heart. In a faithless age irony is the only way to take yourself seriously, and the only way to show others that you distrust yourself enough for them to trust you.
Irony is the only way I can take myself seriously.
Reprinted with permission from "Daily Afflictions" by Andrew Boyd, published by W.W. Norton. To order a copy, click here