I grew up spending as much time with my nose in a book as with my friends; probably more. As an addiction, reading had some good side effects but some downsides too. My ability to make real-life friends was sometimes enhanced by the insights I gained from my imaginary friendships but also hampered by the limited amount of practice I gave myself with real people. It was often easier to retreat to re-reading a favorite book (where I could be sure that everyone would behave just as they had last time) than to get out there and learn the lessons of the playground. Even now, I sometimes struggle with frustration when others don't say the lines I've written for them and when scenes don't unfold according to script. Though I think that happens to non-readers, too.
These days many seem to find television and movies the more satisfying, engrossing medium. "Today, the TV set is a key member of the household, with virtually unlimited access to every person in the family," says the sociologist George Gerbner, who compares the power of television to the power of religion. "The more time people spend 'living' in the television world, the more
likely they are to believe social reality portrayed on television."
I am not surprised to know people who feel more connected to characters on the screen than to neighbors, classmates, or coworkers, and maybe even family members. But when you add on the continued growth of celebrity culture, it has some funny effects, doesn't it? We start to feel as if musicians, athletes, and other celebrities are our real friends. And you can actually meet them. Follow them on Facebook. Write to them on Twitter. They are real people, even if their "brands" are carefully managed.
But what about actors? The job of these men and women, explicitly, is to present themselves as something other than they are... to portray the characters that, in a novel, would live only in one's imagination: Now they have flesh and blood.
A number of people I know were recently upset and saddened by the death of Canadian actor Jonathan Crombie. He's best known for portraying the young love interest in the much-beloved 1985 movie Anne of Green Gables. He was still in his forties and died rather suddenly of a brain hemorrhage, so that ups the tragedy factor.
Yet why were the fans sad? Few, I suspect knew much about the actor or had followed his modest career these last 30 years, much less his health, family, or inner life. They were sad because Gilbert was dead. Of course Gilbert was a fictional character and had never been alive in the first place.
What do we make of this? A healthy sign that one's imagination, empathy, and sense of play are still working, or something more ominous and distorted? Is it different from children playing with dolls, animal-lovers attributing human motivations to their pets.... or me crying over a book? (which seems perfectly justified! Or.... okay, maybe it's the same thing.) Is it a matter of degree or effect, a question of whether they express a healthy creativity versus an obsessive, corrupting, or idolatrous one?
We live in a post-modern day and age where it's hopelessly old fashioned to defend the notion of a common "reality" or the importance of being connected to the "real world." Under such conditions, it would seem like nonsense to evaluate these behaviors in terms of how they reinforce or distort our sense of and taste for what is true, real, good, or best. Wouldn't it?
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Monday, April 20, 2015
Since then I've been thinking about how much I take for granted the intrinsic blessings, big or small, that come with the intrinsic limitations of my own life and maybe those of each one of us.
Friday we stopped by Chris's university in Portland to have lunch there on our way to Seattle, and caught sight of a flier advertising a sunset dinner cruise for seminary students. No price listed, but tickets for that particular experience run $70 a person; no chance it's free? Actually, it is, and we're signed up. One of those little perks that come along with the sacrifice of time and money we've made to get Hubs through school. And a nice way to celebrate graduation. Thank you, Lord.
Today I am working on resource reviews for the weekly, online magazine I manage. I regularly rejoice that I've got a job that allows me to spend so many hours playing with words and putting together articles, almost all of which are published. This morning, that meant spending a couple hours reading a mission-related novel. It's pretty good. I'm going to recommend it. But am trying not to feel guilty about starting my work week with such a pleasure!
None of us love our jobs (or our lives) all the time, but isn't it great to have a job with many moments you can love... and that provide the means of enjoying other things you love?