I’ve been thinking a lot about irreverentialism lately—not that specific word, because I didn’t know the -ism existed, but the general concept of things that are irreverent, the quality or state of being irreverent. The dictionary defines it as “lacking proper respect or seriousness” (Merriam-Webster)—and it is, of course, the opposite of reverence, to revere something (or etymologically: to fear something enough). So, it is fearless to be irreverent—but is it irrelevant to be irreverent?
I’ve found myself asking this question quite a bit recently. I’m a huge fan of irreverent art, writing, and humor. I practice it in my own writing, and I gravitate towards it in others’ work—much preferring the silly or weird or different to the serious, earnest, or traditional.
But in a political and cultural period in which things really do matter and things really are serious, how much do we need irreverentialism?
I’m going to say a lot.
To be irreverent is to be satirical. Not necessarily—but probably. And irreverence can work as the perfect foil for serious issues—a way for serious issues to sneak in under the radar and do some real work.
This month’s issue is full of the irreverent.
In Dick Bentley’s story, “On High,” we have a joyously quirky depiction of youth literally ‘not revering’ the holy crucifix—and indeed mounting the world’s largest one to get a little “high.” Our other featured writer, Michael Loveday, gives us a mother and daughter (with all the attendant issues of a mother-daughter relationship), but he also brings us Russian trapeze artists and portly gentlemen throwing flames in the air and many other well-placed distractions. Terek Hopkins writes a convincing sex scene where plastic flamingos become a central concern, and in Jan Elman Stout’s piece, cherries are more significant than just a garnish. Finally, Gay Degani provides perhaps the least irreverent story—but I would say the act of writing micro is an act of irreverentialism itself, eschewing proper and “serious” narrative structures.
In all seriousness, I hope you enjoy the lot!