Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Iconoclasm Revisited

Originally posted on August 4, 2012

My wife and I were chatting and I murmured, “I guess I’m a bit of an iconoclast.” She erupted vehemently—the word has very negative connotations to her, shallow, destructive rather than constructive, close to the sense of mere anarchy. Aha, here is another instance of certain words being nested in associations that are sometimes emotionally loaded for one and yet in another person, generative of more positive associations. For me, the word partakes of Abraham’s shattering of his father’s idols in a traditional legend, and its pursuit viewed thereafter as both a virtue and by others in other settings as a sacrilege to art if not to religion.

For me, though, the word has been perhaps the sharp end of a rather private quest. I’m a rebel in my heart, but you might not know it outwardly. What I rebel to, and as I reflect on my life, since the age of ten or earlier, are the conventions, the beliefs, the pomposities, the false values, the de facto “worship” (i.e., giving highest priority to) such things as a celebrity, a television program, a sport, commercial interests, money (the most prevalent god on this planet at present), power, and an un-ending list of illusory goals and gratifications. My career has been (at a deeper level) one that has sought to piece by piece identify this or that idol. (From a certain vantage point, all idols are false.)

I’m aware that it’s easy to overdo it, and that often what one person calls an idol another who likes it will excuse, justify, “It’s just a reminder.” So I refrain from getting too self-righteous about any of this. But recognizing that contemporary life is near-saturated with distractions that can become hypnotically alluring, that can seem like the biggest thing going, and that will in the end betray you with their vacuity—this is indeed one of the little games I play. The game includes the waking up dynamic: “Oh, my, I’d never realized that this X is also an illusion!” It’s a little Buddhist in this regard. And part of the fun is that I keep finding new ones—I don’t give in to the subtle self-idolatry of thinking that I’ve got ‘em all now! Ha ha!

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