The problem with David Foster Wallace's desire, as James alludes, is that you really can't go home again. Can't. Not that it's bad, not that it's hard. It's that you are asking the mind to knowingly change itself back to a state of unknowing. Since you must be conscious of something that you are asking yourself to do, that's impossible.
It's like the old question regarding the question of the installation at an art museum. (I'm cribbing this.) The professor says, "The reason the urinal hanging on the wall in the gallery space of the art museum is different from the one hanging on the wall in the bathroom of the art museum is that one is in the gallery space, and the other isn't. The gallery urinal is in the installation. Whether the artist or the curator or the viewer wishes it to be different is immaterial; the urinal has been installed." The student asks, "How do you de-install the urinal?" The professor says "Take it off of the wall. But as long as it is being held up as an object of art, it is subject to the rules we understand the 'gallery as concept' to operate under, the meta-installation." The student asks, "How do you de-install the installation?" The professor says, "You can't. You are asking the mind to de-install itself." The same, here.
It's come to my attention that since the movie 300, there's been this "new Spartans" meme in certain conservative circles, people who want to return to the old ways, the old conceptions of honor and manliness and what have you. And they want to do and say and look like the Spartans did and spoke and looked. What they don't seem to countenance is that the idea of asking "Is this how a Spartan would stand" would be a thought of mind-shattering revolution for an actual Spartan. The mindset necessary to attempt the project undoes the project. (I also imagine these guys are less inclined to participate in enthusiastic man-on-man sodomy than the Spartans were.)
It seems that people often believe the the problem isn't so much the knowingness as it is the consequences of that knowingness-- the verbal irony, the disconnection, the ennui, the unreality, the emotional death. That's only as true as it's true that fixing the shivers and sneezing and fever cures a flu. You can stop every symptom but you haven't killed the disease. Incidentally, I think some people are convinced that having a postmodern outlook means that you celebrate or sneer in the face of it. That isn't true. Look, I don't want the world to be this way. I don't have any choice in the matter.
James is right, of course, that this doesn't have to be a moment of despair, but merely a moment of opportunity. There are small graces in this kind of world, if we look for them. James is a conservative, and thus it is inevitable that his project will be foundational, postmodern or no. That's not a luxury I have. We share, however, the important distinction (which we also share with David Foster Wallace and everyone else) that we really can't go back again. Every conscious attempt to moves our target farther from our fingertips. Unless we can come up with some sort of brain-washing syndrome or hypnosis, we're stuck here. Or, perhaps, we could get a group of like-minded people together and buy some island together in the South Pacific, and raise a group of children, free from Rorty and Heidegger, never hearing of Nietzche, no such movies as The Last Action Hero or Bolt, no The Real Inspector Hound, no Tristam Shandy, no Fake Steve Jobs, no Don Delillo or David Ives, no Stephen Colbert, and you're god damn right, there's a Santa Claus. Would it be worth it? Could you do that to your child, live that kind of lie, even when you were sure it would leave them in a happier and more fulfilling world? I might have to, I'm not going to lie. No kids, so I don't know. But giving the gift of certitude to someone might be worth essentially taking on the mantle of the town elders from Footloose.
(The great question of how this island would be politically and economically organized, if the kind of people I'm thinking of came together to pursue this project, would be worthy of a fat sociological text all its own.)
Anyway, there's always Will Wilkinson's solution: in a response to a post of mine once, he wrote about the wisdom of putting the top down and throwing your arm around your girl. He was right, by god.
I know, you've heard all this from me before. If you've got a good horse, you might as well ride....