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Kitsch is one of the main ploys of eternalism. In Milan Kundera’s memorable phrase, “kitsch is the denial of shit”. For “shit” we can substitute nebulosity, which eternalism finds unacceptable. Kitschy eternalism simply refuses to see meaninglessness, even where it is obvious.
This leads to a willfully idiotic sentimentality. We try to live in a pastel-colored Disneyfied world in which everything works out for the best in the end, everyone is well-intentioned (although sometimes confused), there is a silver lining in every cloud, everyone is beautiful inside, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade, and all the world needs is love. 1
Kitsch is a refusal to seriously engage with spiritual problems. Any anomalies are dismissed as being due to finite human understanding of God’s benevolent intent. Reasonable faith is replaced with credulousness.
False and exaggerated emotion is characteristic of eternalist kitsch.
The antidote to kitsch
The antidote to kitsch is realism: the acknowledgement of shit. Realism requires no particular method or insight; merely willingness. Kitsch is idiotic because we always know better; we just don’t want to admit it.
The danger in applying this antidote—and a reason we fear to do so—is that we may conclude that everything is shit. That, however, is nihilism. We must acknowledge both nebulosity and pattern. The term “kitsch” comes from art criticism; it describes “art” that is self-consciously “beautiful” or sweet. Art that is self-consciously ugly and repellent is equally false, and in recent decades has become equally trite. Authentic art acknowledges the inseparability of light and darkness, and can be a path to non-duality.
- 1.According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel that watches over it and encourages it to grow. Isn’t that darling?