One of my favorite bloggers, The Anchoress, was responding to today’s upcoming sexclusive on Oprah, where the hostess will inevitably pester a group of Dominican Nuns with endless questions on how they could possibly keep vows of celibacy, and probably ignore the deeper and more truly interesting questions about their spiritual life. (You can watch the preview here.) But enough about Oprah. I was more impressed with the following comments about daytime television (and thereby our popular culture in general):
The reason I don’t watch daytime television is because it is generally insipid and brain-killing. The cheap emphasis on trends, “instant” solutions to real problems and the over-reliance on sex as a subject and selling point can only serve to delude people into thinking that “the world” has all of the answers -that as long as they are reading a particular book, using a particular product, watching a particular show or espousing a particular mindset, they are progressing toward their happy-place. But they can never get there because every week the happy-place is redefined; the paths are changed, the next enlightened counselor, psychic or charlatan is the guy or gal who can tell you how to make your life perfect and achieve “inner peace” and ten-minute orgasms, by simply taking their vague advice.
One of my dad’s favorite rejoinders to our frequent youthful complaining was the terse: “Buck up!” I suppose it’s inevitable that children will complain. But did anybody else notice just how it is that we transitioned from normal-complaining-kids into pathetic-whiny-adults? This likely occurred during a process of years in which we necessarily, by mere passing of time, moved from the contained spaces of childhood into the larger world. We could also call the process College, where the adult-child whining is loudest and most insufferable.
I don’t think that it’s necessarily so that children think that the world ought to be solvable by easy answers—children occupy a frame-of-mind that does not deal with such abstractions. But budding adults, from high-school age on, are capable of abstract thought, and it is a symptom of faulty abstraction when an adult demands easy answers to problems that by nature are complex. Hence the political idealism so attractive to the teenage mind, and which retains the glimmer of self-made perfection far too long into the lives of 30-year-old children. A friend of mine recently used the phrase: “He needs to get out into the world and discover his inner adult.” How aptly put! An adult ought to know better than fall for the siren-call of daytime television and pop culture’s panacea offering of easy answers. Life is more complex (and therefore more demanding) than we could imagine. We must actually do, and not simply think.
I am reminded of an anecdote about David Hume, the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher who drove himself into a deep depression because he had apparently proved that human beings are so dependent upon sense perception that we have no direct, unmediated contact with objective reality. In short, we’re stuck in our own heads. A depressing thought indeed! After weeks down in the dumps, Hume stumbled out his front door, and right into a children’s game in progress. He at once was swept into playing with the kids (his own or neighboring I don’t recall), and soon was surprised to discover that he was laughing free and naturally, his depression left behind in his study.
Which is why I love the Anchoress’ following assessment of the only way out of the swamp of stuck-in-my-own-head pop culturism:
You never hear one of these daytime-answer folk say that life is hard, and often unfair, and that sometimes the best way to deal with it all is to just buck up, stop whining, stop thinking about yourself, and go do something productive for someone else; find something greater than yourself in which to expend some energy, and much of your real or imagined grievances will fade away.
What a concept!
You can read her whole article here: “Dominican Sisters on Oprah”