Saturday, October 23, 2010

That's Entertainment

Have you ever run across those people who don't seem to know how to have a conversation? They only appear to know how to speak in quotes. Everything they say is a quote from someone else. In fact, they can have an entire dialogue (I"m not sure it's a conversation, as nothing seems to be communicated) of quotes amongst others like themselves. For hours on end. Oh, and I'm not talking about those that only quote sacred Text when answering questions. I'm talking about those who quote Monty Python, or The Simpsons or some other television show, or piece of modern culture.

I overheard a few people just the other day who were doing this, and, well, you guessed it: it got me thinking. It got me thinking about the role of entertainment in our society, and how it seems to have been blown way out of proportion. Just this evening, I went to a reputable news web-site and noticed that the two main headlines were both about entertainment, one about sports and the other about internet videos. These overshadowed the death of a major political figure, and some important scientific breakthroughs. Of the top four "breaking stories", not counting the two  headlines, 3 were about entertainment.

Maybe it's just me, but this seems a bit skewed.

I'm reminded of an early Baha'i in the West who had the opportunity to see 'Abdu'l-Baha when He was in America. She was going to go see Him when one of her friends invited her to go to the beach. "Oh, but it's 'Abdu'l-Baha," she thought. Her friend encouraged her, saying, "It's a beautiful day today. Why don't you go see him tomorrow when it's supposed to rain?" And so she went to the beach.

The next day, 'Abdu'l-Baha continued His journey, and she never did get to see Him. Now, whereas I would find this very disappointing and probably lament for years over it (that's the guilty side of me coming out), she used it as a launching pad for always making her priorites clear to herself. I can't remember, but I think she went on to become a Counsellor.

I'm also reminded of one of the "top" acts in Paris at the time of the Master's visit. Or perhaps I should call it a "bottom" act. It was some guy on a vaudeville-type stage who used his flatulence as the base of his humour. Yes, that's right. His act was to imitate how different people would fart.

And more people went to see this guy than 'Abdu'l-Baha?

I can only shake my head.

But today I look at the news, and the undue attention paid to movies, television, video games and sports and I wonder why so much of our energy is taken up with these forms of what is, in the end, entertainment. There are whole magazines dedicated to informing people of what has happened in the latest eopisode of their favorite shows. Whole sections of bookstore and libraries are dedicated to sports, and not with the perspective of becoming healthy, but of recounting the various stats of different players or teams. There are volumes trying to explain the imaginary physics in series like Star Wars or Harry Potter. Millions more people watch the Oscars every year than are aware of Nobel Prizes, or of those volunteer awards in their own neighbourhoods.

These things are not real. Yet they make the news.

And when you try and talk with some people about religion, or spiritual ideas, they look at you as if you are crazy. Hmm. "They regard a single drop of the sea of delusion as preferable to an ocean of certitude."

But please, don't get me wrong. Entertainment has its place. It has its value. "Such arts and sciences, however, as are productive of good results," writes Baha'u'llah, in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, "and bring forth their fruit, and are conducive to the well-being and tranquility of men have been, and will remain, acceptable before God."

One of those good results could be helping us see alternatives through a fictional story, and aiding us in making good decisions in our life. There are many times when I have been in a situation and wondered what to do, and a story I read years ago will come to mind. A character was in a similar situation and made a decision, for better or for worse, and I learned from reading about it. Of course it's best when it is 'Abdu'l-Baha, but fiction works for that, too.

I really enjoy watching a good movie, or reading a good work of fiction. It's great down-time.

I also remember a meeting I was in with a Counsellor. He had called the group of us together to talk about our work. We were a newly formed Institute Board and he wanted to make sure that we got off on the right foot. He gave a very inspirational talk, posed a few questions, and that sat back as we took up those questions and explored them. I happened to be serving as Secretary for that meeting, and found myself in an odd position at that moment of watching the dynamics of the group, instead of being engaged in the verbal side of the consultation. I happened to be sitting next to the Counsellor, and realized he was sitting back watching those same dynamics. I decided to see if I could figure out what he was seeing, and leaned back in my chair to try and better watch. Without looking at me, he gently nudged my arm. I leaned a bit closer to hear his words of inspirational wisdom. "Did you", he asked, "see Star Trek last night? I just loved the way..." And he drew his wisdom out of that episode, knowing that we were both fans of the show.

Yes, entertainment has its place.

But not as news headlines. (sigh)

1 comment:

  1. I am one of those who believes in faith but not in "organized religion". As I look at society from this prospective I see that "media" is the new religion, it is where our children gather their wisdom, ideals, and mentors. But so do many other ages of our world.
    While I don't like "religion" mostly because of the politics it creates, I do miss the belief that comes with beliveing in something that is beyond humanity.
    I guess what I am saying is I understand your sadness at this new "religion".