Confessions of a Cultural Dinosaur5
I’m not certain why I wrote this article or even if it was wise to do so. In many ways it reflects badly on me, or so it seems. But perhaps there’s also something good about the fact that I am, for lack of a more elegant way of putting it, a cultural dinosaur. Keep reading...
I’m not certain why I wrote this article or even if it was wise to do so. In many ways it reflects badly on me, or so it seems. But perhaps there’s also something good about the fact that I am, for lack of a more elegant way of putting it, a cultural dinosaur.
The men on my pastoral staff are all in their 30’s, with the exception of one who is only 24. When I listen to them talk about the latest film they watched or musical group whose concert they attended or television show they enjoyed the night before, I feel my age in somewhat painful ways. Let me say that as best I can tell they do not expose themselves to unsavory or salacious forms of media. They are all godly men who are discerning and careful to guard their hearts. But that doesn’t change the fact that they often seem to live in a world of which I know virtually nothing.
This was driven home to me in a pointed way when I picked up the December 16, 2013, edition of New York magazine. Now immediately some of you will laugh and insist that the mere fact that I actually read New York (well, it was more like perusing or browsing or whatever you do with a magazine that you don’t actually read) or even took momentary notice of it proves that I’m far from being a cultural dinosaur. It is, after all, one of the premier publications that reports on most of today’s cultural phenomena. (O.K., I need to make one additional confession: I actually subscribe to New York magazine! There, I said it. My decision was largely driven by the realization of how out of touch I am with much in the contemporary world. But alas, I don’t think my browsing of New York has elevated my cultural tastes or awareness in the way that I had initially hoped. The subscription will soon lapse and I will not be renewing it.)
The issue in question is titled: “The Year in Culture.” Beneath the title it promised this: “The Best in Movies, Pop, Books, Theater, Classical, Art, and Television.” My immediate reaction was that this is going to be a good gauge of how far I’ve come in terms of my engagement with what is happening in our society. Now, I don’t want to mislead you. I’m actually quite literate and up-to-date with regard to religious, political, scientific, educational, ethical, and of course, athletic developments in our world. I read The Oklahoman (the daily newspaper of Oklahoma City), U.S.A. Today, and The New York Times (to which I also subscribe on my i-Pad) on a regular, indeed daily, basis. So there are dimensions of life in the world today where I feel fairly well-informed. But so-called “pop cultural” elements have evidently thus far eluded me. Let me explain by highlighting four of the categories covered.
The first category in New York was “The 10 Best TV Shows of the Year.” Three of them are available only on HBO, to which I do not subscribe (and never will). Two others are listed as being shown on Netflix, to which I, at least for the time being, have no access. But what struck me is that I had never seen one of these shows, no, not even one. Now, that may not come as a surprise when you realize that I’ve never seen a single episode of Seinfeld, Friends, ER, or any of the Survivor shows, just to mention a few. O.K., let me come completely clean: I haven’t watched a sit-com or dramatic program on TV for nearly 20 years. The last one I watched with any degree of regularity was Hill Street Blues, way back in the 80’s (it’s still the best ever, but of course that’s easy to say insofar as I have nothing from the past 20 years against which to judge it!).
The second category was “The 10 Best Movies of the Year.” Now, I do go to movies when I have the time and when I think there’s something worth seeing. But again, I have yet to see one of these ten, although I do hope to see “American Hustle” when it comes to OKC (I’m sure that will provoke stern judgment from a few of you; but many are predicting it will win the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year).
Next were “The 10 Best Books of the Year.” Of course, I publish my own list of the 10 Best Books of the Year on my blog (forthcoming in the next few days), but once more I came out of this one batting a big fat 0. Of the ten, I had only heard of one of them, the book that came in tenth on the list (Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright). I haven’t read it, but at least I’d heard of it! That ought to count for something (what, I don’t know).
Finally, there was “The 10 Best Pop Albums of the Year.” The sad thing here is that when it came to nine of the ten I not only had not heard of the Album, neither had I ever heard the name of the artist! The one exception was an album called “Yeezus” by Kanye West (who ought to learn how to spell his first name if he really wants us to pronounce it ‘Kon-yay’, something I still refuse to do). And though I’ve heard of Mr. West, I doubt that I’ll ever listen to this album given the fact that the magazine uses these words (among others) to describe it: “morally rancid,” “sordid,” “maudlin,” and “ugly.”
Well, enough of this already. Some of you will undoubtedly think of me as a socially stunted, culturally ignorant, fuddy-duddy who really ought to get with it. In many ways you are spot on target. But I think I’m doing ok. And I hope the movies and music and books and songs that I do enjoy will be enough to keep me atuned to the things in our world today that are deserving of note and worthy of my time and money. In the meantime, I not only plan on listing the 10 Best Books of the past year, but I hope to follow it up with a list of what are, in my opinion, the 10 Best Movies of all time. So come back soon and see what this acknowledged cultural dinosaur is up to.
Perhaps I should close with a word of encouragement, one of which I regularly remind myself when making decisions about movie and music and the like. It comes from another cultural dinosaur, although admittedly of a different century:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Darn it! I think I just let the Apostle Paul talk me out of going to see “American Hustle”!