Quick Note for Monday, 19 January 2015
From T. S. Eliot,
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
AAAnd the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
AAAnd you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
AALeaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about
“The terror,” writes Richard Winter in Still Bored In a Culture of Entertainment, “…lies in the realization that there might be nothing with which to perpetuate the self-induced process of being ‘distracted from distraction by distraction'”.
Advertisers are quick to fill the gap of even a leisurely walk down the street. Such walks are designed to clear the head, change scenes, get us focused again by renewing us away from what drains and drags. Yet, there they are. In the check-out lines of markets, on street posts, the doors to buildings, and even, in a grandiose act of self-promotion, on the windows of restaurants. What once was placed in architecturally useful places to allow those inside to receive natural light and be reminded of their connection to the beauty outside has now become just another dimension for advertisers to fill. Heck, we’ve invented, just for windows, translucent forms of advertisements that still allow light to pass through them, causing the ad to “glow” while we sit a few feet from it enjoying a meal.
Writing about the advent of modern marketing at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, Winter says, “Great buildings were constructed to house the grand exhibits and to give space to the lavish displays of the exotic cultures and merchandise of the African and Far Eastern countries….by the early 1900s ‘expositions and fairs had become miniature cities of consumption, whose utopian rhetoric was that each consumable object contained within itself the power of bless'” (45).
“Contains within itself
the power of bliss.”
This is the great lie of the consumer age. We are addicts, you and I. We are never content; never satisfied. We may say we are. We may be more so compared to others. To some degree, however, we all have raccoon syndrome: we’re all susceptible to the shiny object, whether chrome, aluminum, diamond, or LCD display.
This is a far cry from Paul who had learned the secret to being content whether he was hungry or full, cold or comfortable:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).”
This isn’t a call from Paul for “holy aerobics.” Quoting this verse while on mile marker 20 of a marathon may, indeed, get you the strength and determination to make it to mile 26.2, but it’s not because Jesus strengthened you to exercise and expend energy more efficiently and better. Paul had to “learn” this lesson through hardship because, after all, this same Christ-who-strengthens was also the Christ-who-brings-suffering, telling Paul earlier,
“I will show him how much he (Paul) must suffer for my name (Acts 9:16)”
What Paul learned—what we all must learn quickly—is that suffering is what brings our bliss, for it is through suffering that we receive the grace of Christ. Suffering, not Shiny, brings satisfaction. Bliss can never come through artistic and technological, fanciful frenzy. Ironically, it was while watching television that I first was hit with this many years ago on a television show that began with these words:
Everything Man-made has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.
This is why we’re all so bored. This is why we don’t have to be. Turn away from yourselves and our own creations, and turn towards the suffering that comes from absolute obedience of faith in Christ, and receive the blissful contentment advertisers promise but can never deliver.