Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Canonicity" in Real Life

In terms of the Bible, canon refers to those works that are accepted by the Church as being authoritative. Teachings can be based upon canonical texts. They accurately reflect God’s truth—reality.

Over time, the term canon has been applied to other collections of writings. It all started with the fictional history of Sherlock Holmes. Those stories written by Doyle were “canon” while those by other authors or even just fans are not. None of the stories told about Holmes are real; they are all fiction. However, for the sake of people taking about Holmes—or even people who wish to write further adventures about him—the canon writings are the ones that must not be contradicted.

As popular fiction grows and expands more and more imaginary worlds have gotten to the point where an idea of “canon” is needed; especially as the stories go beyond the written word to television, film and other media. The Buffy-verse, Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who are all examples of sprawling fictional histories where canon is debated and argued over. The real problem is that the postmodern fan is often not comfortable with official, excepted canons. They want to determine for themselves which stories they will accept and which ones they will not.

And, in this post-postmodern world in which we live, issues of canonicity have begun to crop up in real life. Individuals in our culture today have decided that reality is something that everyone can determine for themselves. An extreme example would be the increasingly larger “conspiracy theorist” portion of society. People who talk about the JFK assassination or the 911 attacks as being orchestrated by a conspiracy often talk about events in terms of which theories and facts they accept and which they don’t. Proof and evidence do not enter the discussion. It is merely a question of opinion or preference.

But it does not stop there. Issues of faith, science, politics, history and current events are all subject to individual canon. We are beginning to have a crisis of knowledge and unknowable reality as never before.

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