Sunday, August 19, 2007

Musings on Some Cultural Absurdities

I have recently come acorss a few cultural absurdities of note. I would like to share them with my cyber-audiece, if it so pleases :) The first two will be news stories, and the last will be a personal encounter. I will not comment so much on the news stories for now, as there is much that could be said about both. For now I will more simply just point and laugh. The last musing, however, from the personal encounter, will sort of serve as a new framework through which to view the first two.

Musing One: Sputnik on Steroids

Here is a link that is a news story about the first space hotel, which is supposed to open in the year 2012 A.D. If you ask me, sputnik might just be the prime sign of the shift from what is often referenced as the modern world to the postmodern. For most people, Sputnik represents man's scientific progress toward greater mastery of the universe. For me, however, Sputnik represents the actualization of the modern project to put himself in the place of God and have mastery over the world in which he lives. Technologies are the extensions of man, as McLuhan says, and Sputnik was man's extending the limits of his being out to the entirety of the globe.

At the time of Sputnik, as you can see from the link provided, Sputnik represented the technological superiority of Communism over Capitalist Democracy. Ahh but democracy need not fear; now it can offer a three night stay in a space hotel for the modest price of four million dollars! Sputnik circled the entirety of the globe once every 90 minutes. This space station will do so 15 times in a day, which obviously puts it at under 60 minutes for the same feat. Rich people in the poor parts of Kenya make between 30 and 50 cents a day; meanwhile these adventerous entertainment seekers will pass Kenya 15 times a day and, while thinking to themselves, "Poor, worthless saps," say, "Look honey, isn't it beautiful."

Musing Two: Steven Segal Is Gone With The Wind

Here is a link on a funny news article informing us that Steven Segal blames his fallen career on the FBI. I don't think this one requires as much explanation as the previous one in order for my audience to share in my laughter. The obvious first thought is the Britney Spears comparison; Steven Segal is no Peter Sellers. More relevant to the fact that this post is a musing on culture, however: did Segal not get the memo that Pop Culture is like glittery confetti in the wind? Someone throws it up in the air. Everyone looks up and goes, "Ooohh." Then it either falls or blows away, and everyone forgets about it. Problem is, everyone is still busy going "oohh" over the next handfull of glittery confetti that someone threw up in the air, which - thank God! - constantly helps us to forget the rough spots in our own hearts.

Musinng Three: Mighty Aphrodite vs. Old School

Thursday night I hung out with a very good friend of mine. We went and ate dinner, talked about life and God and stuff, and then he asked if I wanted to watch a movie. I said I didn't want to watch a pop-culture movie, and I suggested that we watch either The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie, which I explained that he would probably think it was boring since its not filled with dramatic music and car crashes and explosions of fire and emotion, or we could watch a Woody Allen Comedy (I had in mind Mighty Aprhodite). I don't think he's even seen many Woody Allen films, so I had to try to explain that to him as well, trying to convince him that a Woody Allen movie is "less boring" than one by Luis Bunuel. When I was done explaining our Allen and Bunuel options, he got all tense and said, "I don't think I want to watch a movie with you tonight." I said, "Why not?" Him, "Because your movie will be serious and boring." Me, "Woody Allen isn't boring. I promise." Him, "OK."

So we payed our bill and were off to the video store. We watched the Mighty Aprhodite. I laughed a lot. He mostly had a look of boredom on his face but laughted every now and again. At the end I could tell without his saying it that he was disappointed that he had just spent an hour and a half of his time watching it. The next night (Friday night), however, I ended up watching Old School with him and another friend. Both of them loved it, of course. They said, "That was so good." They looked over at me, "...wasn't it?" I said, "It was funny, but quite juvenile." Meanwhile I was disappointed and wishing I hadn't just spent an hour and a half watching that stupid movie.

Then tonight (Saturday) I was at a concert listening to the live heartfelt music of Josh Garrels and - while in a prayer-like state listening to the music - realized that I had the same aggrevation with my being subjected to Old School as with the very existence of a space hotel and also with the whole confetti throwing phenomenon of pop culture. The whole thrust of the comedy of Old School is the glorification of the shallowness and hedonism of college life when a group of older men (some married, some still single) are faced with the prospect of growing up - and actually relating to their spouses with all of their being (depths and all). The movie ends with Will Farrel's walking off sad and lonely after his wife tells him she wants a divorce. Somehow that's supposed to be the peaceful denoument.

There is something in me that wants to cutt myself off entirely from such rediculousness. Something in me wants to hold a posture of indignation and contempt towards my two close friends who enjoyed Old School (more towards the fact that it exists, but I hope my audience gets the point), toward Steven Segal, and toward all those who would want to come up with the idea of a space hotel and of course all those who would want to stay in one as well. Now, the music of Josh Garrels is like worship. Like the Word of God itself it strikes at the core of the heart.

I realized tonight while listening to his music that such a posture toward my friends betrays the very reason why I wouldn't want to watch Old School. I have in myself the very same darkness that lead to Will Farrel's character's divorce in the movie. I have in me that same desire to escape the darkness in my own heart and say "oohh" to the confetti. The differences between myself and my two close friends who liked Old School is that I look to different confetti, and I take art seriously. In fact, I look to different forms of "confetti" because I take art seriously. Listening to God's Word I realize that I'm no different from the star-gazers on Hollywood Boulevard, and I need to have some Grace and Mercy. I need to let God love me tenderly; and I need to have the same posture of tenderness and acceptance toward others. Maybe then my art might speak to others like the Word of God. Maybe then when I speak to both of those friends, they won't feel like I'm speaking at them (which sometimes they do feel) but to them.

So, then I must ask. Are the "cultural absurdities" referenced in the title of this post the absurdities of the folks' going "ooohh" at the confetti, or are they instead the cultural absurdities of what's often being cultivated in my own heart? Is the "culture" in question in the first place one of contempt (or love) or confetti and pop-culture (or "authenticity")?

"For most people, Sputnik represents man's scientific progress toward greater mastery of the universe. For me, however, Sputnik represents the actualization of the modern project to put himself in the place of God and have mastery over the world in which he lives."

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26)
From Genesis 11:

1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in(A) the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone,(B) and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower(C) with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." 5And(D) the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come,(E) let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech." 8So(F) the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called(G) Babel, because there the LORD confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
I guess he can't quite make up his mind. Kind of like a parent when the kids start growing up.
I think its more that the Garden had hedges. Or at least a boundary or limit between itself and the wilderness beyond.
...and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. The motivation here sounds more like fear than arrogance. I think the space race too was fueled as much by fear as by arrogance. Generally speaking, then, might it not be the case that fear and arrogance are often flip sides of one another?

And now we're back to the Protestant fear of arrogance as the cardinal sin.
How did your church group like the Bunuel movie?
Here's the next frontier: artificial life.
The artificial life thing gives me goose bumps of creepiness.

And yes, I would say that pretty much anytime you see arrogance, that it has a lot to do with an underlying fear.

So...I think I understand suddenly better what you mean with church and arrogance. I think. Like, in general...there's the whole church idea of "Jesus is the only way" thing. Which breeds, or can breed, a certain arrogance. From a psychological perspective, you are saying that that's a sign of fear. Just as the arrogance of some cheeseball in bar, present in how he carries himself, is actually also a sign of fear. Am I understanding you? Now, I think we went in this circle before...but I'm still missig, then, why its a Protestant thing and not generally Christian. Sorry, please bear with me :)

On the Bunuel movie...I was confusing The Phantom of Liberty (the one I showed) with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie. There's this whole section in Phantom of the hotel...where a son and him Mom go there to have sex (and it shows here naked)...and then there's this S & M thing with some monks and this lady watching (unexpectedly)...and...yeah...we didn't make it past that. If I remember right, Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie just has a makeout scene at the beginning, and then none of that kind of stuff throughout. I must say, I felt like a total jackass. There was a fifteen year old teen dude and a twelve year old girl of one of the pastors of the church...also there. He was the one who suggested we turn it off.

Anwyay...what is especially disappointing to me is that I wanted to show a movie that doesn't rely on explosions of fire and emotion...not pop culture...and folks didn't seem to enjoy the film even beyond the wierd sexual stuff. I think they were plum bored. Which was very discouraging. But even worse...I had a hard time judging if folks didn't like it because of the boredom or because of the wierd sexual stuff. And I was too humiliated to ask. It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the twelve year old. That was inexcusable even in my own mind...very uncomfortable for me. If it was all adults, I would have been comfortable just fast fowarding through those things.

I didn't share with you guys the next day because: A) I was busy, B) we were talking about other stuff anyway, and C) I was still processing.
I just went back to our other conversation, and "remebered" (again :)



“For Protestantism the unforgivable sin is arrogance. Kitsch and vulgarity are both violations of good taste. From a Protestant perspective disdain for both the kitschy and the vulgar are manifestations of arrogance. In (Protestant) America anyone who professes a preference for high culture is deemed a pretentious phony. Acquired tastes, a cultivated palate, refined sensibilities — all are manifestations of arrogance. Catholicism and Orthodoxy both uphold a Greek version of Christianity in which the high-low distinction is structurally integral to everything”

I was talking to a very good friend once like a year ago about how my problem with our "culture" is the vulgarity in regards to the body...which at its depths actually reflects a fundamental cartesian disharmony with the body...which also manifests itself at (our) protestant church(es), but in a different way...and he actually flat out said that he didn't believe me!

it would be difficult to explain how alienating and difficult that felt. he's like my best friend here in la. we were roommates for like three years.
The experience with the Bunuel does sound like a disaster. Sorry to hear it went poorly. I too have had your experience of people just not getting it about the crass vulgarity that surrounds us.
The other thing is that Bunuel has, I think, a strange mix of psychoanalytic, parodic/starical (?) and surrealist concerns. In other wasn't like porn or somethin'. But how to explain that to my friends!

Anyway...thnks for the compasstion :)
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]