I have a friend at church by the name of Ben. Really good guy. He's a salesman for a living. In fact, he sell electronic equipment (the guy really loves cameras).
This past Sunday he shared with me that this is the past two weeks have been the best two weeks, in terms of sales, that he has ever had. Well, to some degree, it is unsurprising that the two weeks after Thanksgiving are the best two weeks of the year, but that's not really what caught my attention. What I zoned in on was that these were the best two weeks of his career. I mean ever, and he's been doing it for a few years now.
Question: does anybody recognize the significance of that? That this year more people are buying TVs, DVD players, I-pods, etc... than they have for the past few years? Does that seem odd to you? It seemed odd to me. Think about it for a moment. No really, think.
... I thought the economy was bad.
My wife and I don't own a TV. I'm addicted to television, so we don't keep one so that I don't obsess over it. However, whenever we tell people, guess what their reaction is. Shock! Surprise! I mean everyone has a TV, why don't I? But what's really weird is that many of them get offended. That's right, offended. They're annoyed that I don't own a luxury electrical appliance, as if that were a socially reprehensible thing to do. They try to insist on giving us their extra one, and are amazed that we turn them down.
Am I the only one that thinks that this is messed up? Is it just me? What's more annoying is that I don't own a TV because I can't get enough of it, and I know it is unimportant.
There is something that is really off in our culture where those of us barely struggling to get by still go out and buy a big screen TV. That we are barely managing to buy food, but still are able to go out to the movies. We have really messed up priorities. We don't seem to recognize that entertainment is a luxury.
To be fair though, I don't really think our culture still retains the notion of luxury. A luxury, you see, is something that you don't need, and you don't deserve, but enjoy. Therefore, it is something that you are only able to have with your extra resources.
However, we think that we deserve whatever we want. We are kids in the candy shop demanding that we get candy, and so we look to our parents for guidance. The only problem is that we have been adopted by daddy media and mommy credit card. Daddy tells us that we deserve whatever we want, and Mommy reaches in her giant purse, and buys it for us. At least, this is what we seem to think the situation is.
In reality, we give more money to the banks every year for interest on loans, and we spend more money on things we don't need and don't last than we do on anything else. Why primarily buy brand names, not because they are the best, but because those are the things that we see on TV, and they are therefore familiar and comfortable.
Now I'm a capitalist. Do I think capitalism is a great system? No. It just happens to be the way the world works, so deal with it (After all, Adam Smith wasn't trying to come up with an ideal economic system, but was just studying the way the economy already was working). As such, I don't have a problem with companies doing everything that they can to get our money. They're greedy selfish people (a.k.a. people). What I have a problem is that the absolute stupidity of us who actually trust them. We who think that banks help us by giving us credit cards. We who actually think that a truck being built Ford(c) tough is a good thing (in reality, it doesn't say anything about the quality of the truck).
Why are we so addicted to entertainment? Where did all this hedonism come from? Why the self-indulgence? We all see it. We all know it's bad, yet we can't seem to combat it. I do know this: if America doesn't learn to say no, and learn the value of the honest dollar, then we are going to collapse. We'll be a people who starved to death, holding on to our remotes.
December 3, 2009
Why do we swear? Why use profanity? My sister recommended a show called Dead Like Me, and after watching an episode of it, I was thinking about the rather liberal use of profanity in the show. I started to wonder, "Why does a show with this level of material feel the need to saturate the scripts with profanity? What's the point?"
There is belief in our culture (maybe it's across humanity; I don't know, I only live in my culture) that the dirty, profane and ugly are more real than the clean, polite and beautiful. Why is that? I mean, that's why shows like this use profanity. That's why a movie with such deep philosophical and sociological thoughts like Good Will Hunting uses profanity. They think it will make it more real. It is odd to me that Comedy Central requires their comedians to be dirty to stay around when just a little over 50 years ago two guys named Bud and Lou inspired the nation just through cleaning up other people's material. Does dirty really sell? Does sex really inspire? Is the ugly really more real than the beautiful? These are thoughts I was thinking today.
Why do we think its more real? Why do rich kids try to experience real life by dressing like hoodlums? Why does politeness seem fake?
After giving it some thought, I've come to the conclusion that this belief is a complete lie. Clean isn't more real than dirty; it just takes work to maintain... Ah! There's the source of the matter!
When something is clean, we know that someone must of cleaned it. When someone's polite, we know it took effort. When something's beautiful, we know that it had been made that way. We instinctively understand entropy, and know that if something has an order, purpose, and beauty to it, it took work to make it so.
Thus our culture has reached some kind of ontologically apathy! We think that the truest sense of a thing is what it is when left unattended, as if rotten grapes are more grape-like than preservatives. But this isn't the case. Our truest selves are what we were designed to be: something that has to be shaped, formed, reconfigured. When left unattended, you and I are completely depraved: vile, selfish, conniving little monsters. But our TRUEST self is what we become through the powerful hands of the potter. What He intended us to be and what He shapes us to be: how He remakes us!
Politeness, cleanness, and beauty: these are not facades that we hide the truth behind (well they can be, but not necessarily). The true point of these things is the same as salt: it brings out the natural flavor of the thing, to accentuate its true self. It's the polish, not the paint.
Ironically, so much of our culture has begun to do the opposite. Comedians hide their lack of creativity behind shock jokes; people swear in stories to hide their pain and sound strong; movies and TVs shows simulate reality by filling the gaps in their scripts with profanity. Profanity doesn't show reality, only laziness.
There was a day when we looked at role models to inspire ourselves to be something more than we currently are. Now we trash our role models to feel better about ourselves. Dead Like Me, for example, is part of a greater media tendency to 'mundanize' the fantastic (consider Shrek, Incredibles, or Dogma). We take something which belongs in fantasy and imagination, and make it somewhat ordinary. It seems to be some sociological need for us to prove and secure that great proverb we all learned when we were young: "Everybody Poops". Gandi is so much easier to relate to when you know he had to use the rest room.
However, what happens when we make all our fantasies realistic, and our role models regular? Simple: we make our imaginations impotent and become consumed by apathy.
And so we trudge along, with the promise that everything else is just as bad as us, and there's no hope to being perfect, and there's gate to goodness, so we should just settle for life as it is, and learn to deal with it. Let us be like Theo Huxtable and aspire to be average.
No. No, I think there is something better. I think there is a better way. There is a person we can aspire to be like. He was good, He was beautiful, He was clean, and He still is. Being polite isn't hiding our failures, but rubbing them out, so that we can be more Christ like, and please the one who made us and saved us.
I don't mind being apathetic about the world. It is not my world! I'm just a soujourner. But let us never be apathetic about God or ourselves, for our goodness rests in His hands, not our own. He will clean us, and make us into what we truly are, and that we be something beautiful.
And something real.