I Scream, I Shout, Who Listens?

Carson and Noah in training (my son and grandson)
Clarification:  I am not screaming or shouting at my guys!
After I wrote this post, I saw the picture and thought it was cute. 
Isn’t that a cute baby?

Television is thus not simply the dominant medium of popular culture, it is the single most significant shared reality in our entire society.  Christendom was defined as a region dominated by Christianity.  Not all citizens of Christendom were Christians, but all understood it, all were influenced by its teaching, all institutions had to contend with it.  Christianity was the one great assumption of Christendom.  I can think of no entity today capable of such a culturally unifying role except television.  In television, we live and move and have our being.

…television, serve[s] in our culture a role once reserved for God: the role of defining reality.

There is a price today for the ease of images over words.

Entertainment is the one constant in our lives.

…the addiction to diversion…

Ours is the cult of the electronic fragment.

Excerpts taken from Chapter 10, “Popular Culture’s Medium” in All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Kenneth A. Myers, 1989.

When I talked on children’s literature recently, I argued that reading with your child on your lap is altogether different from watching a DVD with a child on your lap.  My primary argument was the power, the beauty, and the glory of words, and the joy of experiencing them with a child.

Words are powerful!  Words are the way we communicate, the necessary components for a conversation. Reading a book is like opening a present: the gift is words to season our speech, words to nurture our spirits.  Words are fascinating and fun.  Words can unlock emotions, bring understanding.  How often have you experienced something that you felt incapable of expressing, only to read a book and exclaim, That is exactly what I meant to say, but didn’t have the words for it.  Words nurture us.  Books will give you words, ideas and stories.

If we used the analogy of food, what would consuming weeks of day-in/day-out television be?

I’d say boxed cereal or K-rations. Albert Marrin writes, “One never felt full after a K-ration meal.  Soldier food was dull and tasteless.”  When did you feel full after watching a show?  Often there is no response at all; the show just covered a void.  Sometimes you feel slimed.  The most recent episode of The Bachelor drew a lot of irritated comments from bloggers.  Why would anyone watch it in the first place?  Do we really want to “nourish” our soul and spirit with that essence of tubercular spittle?

See, I knew it. 
I knew I would get the “screamin’ meemies.” 
My kids know this voice. 
[deep, cleansing breaths]

It is too easy for me to crusade about television because that is the medium “under control” at my house.  I’m very interested in how this translates to the internet (a medium I cannot say is completely under control).  They can both be addictive, time-consuming and there are issues with each medium regardless of content

I would love to see a second edition of this book after twenty years.  How do we move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to thoughtful engagement in the age of TIVO, wifi and text messaging? 

I’m flirting with the idea of subscribing to Mars Hill Audio (see link above) to get more thought-provoking commentary.  From their website:

We believe that fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on.

A gulp of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes on Google Reader


14 thoughts on “I Scream, I Shout, Who Listens?

  1. Marvelous metaphor, my dear :)even though I think the verb would be *infect* instead of *nourish*.  Furthermore, I’ll bet Ken Myers would answer you, if you sent him an email.  I read several interviews with him, when I first started reading the book.While the television lends itself to addictive behavior, it is likely to be replaced by a similar item.  For you understand that  the sick person once *cured* from one addiction, usually just transfers the symptoms to a second (or third) addiction.Time wasters have existed since the beginning of time; and I am guilty of wasting time 😦

  2. @hiddenart – Do you have links, Dana?  I’ve been looking but evidently I’m not searching with the right combination.  I chose nourish in the sarcastic sense.  I’ll go back and put quotes around it.I wish I could find the right tone.  Di @ Circle of Quiet does so well at mentioning that she doesn’t watch TV in a way that doesn’t come off pompous or self-righteous.  I gotta keep working on it!I finally finished this post and published when I went to Facebook and saw the picture of Carson and Noah.  It complemented the piece so well, I just stole it!  I think Mom’s are allowed to steal their kids’ photography.

  3. Carol, you did not sound pompous or self-righteous.  No, not at all!And I agree with you, Myers, and Cindy.  But I do think I am looking for some sort of admision that *TV* (or the internet) is NOT the cause of all the ills of society.   Nowadays people watch TV on the internet :)At any rate, it’s awfully disheartening to be passionate about something and not be able to arouse anyone else’s attention or enthusiasm.I will send you some links – later… as I’m away from home.I am stuck in Chapter Seven and not sure that I want to learn more about pop culture.

  4. Carol,Last time I went to Circe, Myers was there. At the end of his talk I asked him how he reconciled all that he had just said with his own vocation which used just such media. I said this not as a ‘gotcha’ but rather as someone doing the same thing. Myers gave a long sigh and an anguished look and then spoke about ways that Mars Hill tries to stay true to their calling. Once I saw the anguished look I knew he was a kindred spirit. It was my own look as I study the culture AND participate in it.By all means subscribe. I KNOW you will like it.

  5. I appreciate your thoughts, especially as I went rogue and forgot to obey Cindy and apply to the Internet. :)I think my biggest concern with technology is still what it was before reading Myers: that it separates me from others and others from me. I still have a vivid picture in my head of my brother-in-law (age 19) text-messaging a friend while “talking” to me. Since I am over a decade his senior I scolded him and threatened to get out my paddle, but the fact remains that ten years ago, there was no such thing and he and I would have both been fully present in the conversation. The Internet can have the same effect. In fact, that is why I politely decline whenever my husband mentions getting my a laptop. I think that leaving the computer behind me in the office offers a measure of protection, forces me to be fully present in the other rooms of the house.I would love to read what you had to say concerning children’s lit. My favorite times of the day are when we all read together, even though the 2-year-old insists on singing loudly through the entire time. 🙂

  6. @Cindy – Thanks for the anecdote.  That helps.  With my all-or-nothing personality, I think I need to keep the computer off for a large portion of the day.  Sigh.  I’m gonna subscribe.  Years ago, my brother gave me a Mars Hill CD he had.  If you can believe it, an interview with a literature professor was my introduction to P.D. James. He talked about James’ writing and my husband looked at me and asked, “How many of her books have you read?”  I had never heard of her!@Brandy Afterthoughts – Not to one up you, Brandy, but I have scolded several friends and relatives about inappropriate texting.  The worst situation I recall is a young man in our prayer group, WHILE WE ARE PRAYING, sneaking side-long glances at his phone down by his leg and responding with his thumb.  Don’t ask me why I saw that!  At a wedding reception last fall, my niece, who knows enough etiquette to hide her phone under the table, kept sneaking glances.  You have a habit of distilling truth into wonderful little chunks.  The absence of “presence” is exactly what bugs me about cell phones, email, etc.  Someday (soon I hope) I will get the notes on Children’s Literature on my blog.  I’m no expert; I just love good books!  Thanks for your encouragement.

  7. about reading to  your children…. one factor that comes to my mind in addition to the wonderful ones you have already mentioned?*the sound of my mother’s voice*It’s different when she’s reading aloud…. not the same *vox* used when giving commands, instructing, praising or whatever….

  8. Dear Carol,I’ve enjoyed this post and the responses.  I don’t feel self-righteous about not watching television.  It’s such a RELIEF not to have to wade through so much garbage to “find the gold”.  But I worry that since it defines us that I may become too out of touch with my culture (especially since I live overseas already) by not watching it.  Subscribing to World Magazine and Mars Hill Audio has helped me to catch glimpses of what’s going on in the other medias, but there is that nagging feeling that I really have no clue about the (media-imposed) ideas that are shaping the way Americans think.Regarding the text messaging:   My college aged son (who knows better) once called me via Skype and told me he was watching a movie with friends in his dorm room, doing homework, and checking facebook all at the same time.  I asked him to call me back when he wanted to talk JUST TO ME because I couldn’t handle all the competition.  I also remember reading an article (recommended by Ken Myers, I think) that said in our effort to be everywhere at once (via TV, internet, cell phone, etc.)  we end up being NO WHERE at all (i.e, we are never fully engaged in the present moment).   That’s a haunting thought, but a helpful one.  It helps me to turn distractions off whenever a real live person walks into the room. 

  9. Gulp.This is really good and profoundly convicting, Carol.Last night Hubby and I were talking about our kids, particularly our 6 YO, who happens to be off-the-charts gifted musically. I’m telling you, the kid was singing – with perfect pitch – obscure symphony and movie music themes at age 2.. we both have music degrees and our eyebrows RAISE at what he’s able to do. Anyway… after years of deciding NOT to allow the kids to have video games, last year we caved and hopped on the Lego Star Wars bandwagon on our windows computer.. anyway, long story short, last night hubby said, while I was expressing frustration that our 6 yo is seemingly not interested in piano lessons, ‘take away the Lego Star Wars and you’ll have a very willing student’. It caused me GREAT pause. Our kids use the computer PRACTICALLY never, only on 3 days of the week and for limited hours on those days – but it’s enough to have distracted their minds or changed their little thought lives or – ugh, i don’t know how to sum it up. But it’s MUCH more difficult to convince them, now, that a reading time, board game, or piano lesson would be any ‘fun’ at all.I’m ready to pull the plug.As for tv, they’re not really watchers. We have movies, but very little tv time for the kids – only really on Saturday mornings [which, for the record, are but a shadow of the joy they were when I was a kid!!]We’re moving in the next couple of months… sounds like the perfect time to re-think our set up, our time usage, and our computer accessibility for the kids, don’t you think?Steph

  10. We refused to get text messaging on our cell plan until the boys went to college. At that point we conceded but it was a mistake. One of my sons is continually texting, He even texts while having anti-technology conversations. We are adamant that no one text while driving but I find texting one of the most worthless of the new media and for some reason the one that greatly appeals to the younger set. My son’s friend was at the hospital last weekend during his baseball game and she texted(?)me to find out info on the game. I spent the whole game trying to slowly type answers to her questions. It was surreal for me and yet there was some sort of relationship building during the encounter. 

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s