Saturday, December 9, 2006

Neil Postman, Gift-giving, other random thoughts.

I don't think Neil Postman went far enough in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. His idea was that the media (the way in which we communicate) shapes what we communicate. Postman was very much interested in the concept of the News broadcast, where the whole world is given to you in 15 second snapshots, all geared toward the idea that something absolutely wonderful will happen after the next commercial. It leads you through bombings, deaths, fires, rapes, cats in gutters, only to lead you to weather, sports, and then to some insignificant Youtube like video of something really weird happening, as if that were the highlight of the whole hour. So what if the kid is stuck in the vending machine, the hike in gas prices or the threat of nuclear holocost from N. Korea or Luxembourg or whoever wants to annihilate us next is much more important and relevant to our lives.

But that's not what is paramount to the media (see ideas in posts below). My contention is that the media (the way in which we communicate) has become our reality. To rephrase, Postman maintains that the "Medium is the Message." I go further, the "Medium is the Reality." It happened about the same time that TV really started infiltrating our living rooms (and more importantly, our bedrooms. There's no point in having sex until after we've seen the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (bless his soul) or (heaven forbid) Jay Leno.) Why bother living in our reality, where people work for a living and raise children and clean the house, when we can watch endless hours of TV or surf the Internet or play Video Games to our hearts content (or until our arteries clog and we die of heart attacks, either way.). This effects the very manner in which we look at reality. How many times has a worker at the Borders Cafe held up her scoop and asked if I want ice in my Mr. Pibb, and all I can think of is "of Kellogg's Raisin Bran "Two Scoops!"" How many can instantly quote the phone number for Empire Carpets or Safe Auto. I watched Amber and Lee watch TV, and when those commercials came on, they sang the numbers without even looking at the screen or looking up from what they were doing (playing Yugi-oh, I think.) It's been ingrained into the younger generations' minds.

I told a customer yesterday (she was looking for classics to introduce to her child) that children don't seem interested in a book unless the main character has a show on Nickelodeon or Disney or something. Farewell Peter Pan, hello Spongebob Squarepants. And this is the state of reality. Peter Pan would have no one to recruit for Neverland, because everyone would be happy here in their own Private Neverland here in America. Society here is content with no one growing up or accepting responsibility for their actions because people who don't grow up are impotent and easily persuaded by the next piece of candy or the next shiny new something or the other that is advertised. Remove the serious parts of the world, disguise the unfortunate or turn it into hilarious youtube videos, and make all your problems go away with a trip to the mall and the swipe of a credit card and the purchase of an Xbox 360 or the latest purse or whatever. Woe to the world when the children of America take over, because there will be no one to stop whoever from taking over the rest of it.


It seems strange that I would post two blogs about Christianity, since I am not an overly religious person. But I do believe in what I said, and I think that, like all things, one's faith must be carefully looked at and improved, in whatever one believes. I had a strange experience that validated the thoughts I had on Christmas and Gift-giving. I went to Chick-Fila to get something to eat for lunch, and turns out, silly me, that I forgot my Debit card in my pants pocket at home. Well, an older African American gentleman pulled out cash and insisted that he pay for my lunch. What was unusual about this was my reaction to it. I felt bad at first, as if I had done something wrong (which, to some extent, I had), and I didn't want to face this person who was paying for my lunch. But this feeling is exactly the wrong feeling to have. Open hearted giving (he was not in the same line as me, so it wasn't because he was in a hurry. He wanted to help me out), especially in this Christmas season, is a reminder of what I said below, that the giving of one's time, money, services, in an open-hearted, generous manner emulates the act of God giving Jesus to an unworthy peoples. I did nothing to deserve him paying for my lunch, but he did it anyway. We as a human race did nothing to deserve God sending his Son to die for our sins, but he did it anyway. What happened at Chick-fila emulates and validates what happened on the cross, because at first we are ashamed at our mistakes, but then we turn to the giving of thanks to the person (or God) that has generously given of himself. This feeling is what is lost when we fill Christmas lists or do Secret Santa's or expect a gift or a thank you card from friends or family.


It's cold here (my friends in Maine will laugh at me, it's around 25 here.) Thank goodness the cat we take care of is very well furred and doesn't mind the cold. My brother wraps Puddy up in his blanket before he goes to bed late at night. It looks like a Puddy Burrito. Cats are so independent. They can take care of themselves, for the most part, unless they get into the insides of the car to keep warm. Hit the Hood of your car before you get in to start it. That should startle any cat that has gotten in there. It's much better than having cat hair come through the AC.

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