Everything Bad is Good For You: Part I

"You know what your problem is?" Not too many good conversations start off in this manner. However, recently I was at a retreat when one of my friends, Kari, started a conversation in this very way. I wasn't really sure where this was going because the question seemed to have no context, but she quickly went on to say, "You try too hard. You actually try not to like things and you even seem happy of your ignorance on not knowing much about pop culture. You may be missing out on some good things you know."

She was right - to an extent. I sort of like saying that I have no clue what happens on Gray's Anatomy and am very proud that I could probably count the number of reality TV episodes I've watched on one hand. But, with all things, I'm inconsistent and can't keep up to my own standards of pop culture snobbery. I do watch things like Everybody Loves Raymond, West Wing, and starting this past weekend - Lost. I also started a book entitled Everything Bad is Good for You which discusses the merits of popular culture and how it is actually making us more intelligent. I grew up with the mentality that watching TV pretty much made you less intelligent, and so this book is definitely trying to blow that paradigm out of the water. But more on that in a later post.

Last night Stephen, Jen and I got to talking about what was actually good for us to consume from pop culture and what was not. We all admitted to the guilty pleasure of laughing at things that perhaps were funny but very inappropriate. In fact, in thinking about it, the standard seems to be if it is funny or highly entertaining than it is ok. God surely knows we wouldn't ever contemplate living the way those characters would and its ok if we laugh at their foolishness and the humerous situations their lifestyles create. A great example of a show that is definitely on the edge of questionable is Seinfeld. I find that show as funny as the next person, but I will admit to watching episodes that made me blush where sex was talked about so flippantly that the show totally defied the Christian concepts of purity, holiness, and honor within marriage.

I'm conservative but I don't go to the extent that we should banish Harry Potter and have a public book burning because he is a wizard. Indeed, we can decipher between fact and fiction. And perhaps, while I'm not a huge consumer of popular culture, I should only partake in what is actually good for me. What do you all think? When and where do we draw the line between being conservative and enjoying what popular culture gives us?

I'll end with this -- "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -- Phillipians 4:8



"People who bore one another should meet seldom; people who interest one another, often."
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I love C.S. Lewis. Sometimes I feel like he's my long lost brother, or perhaps my friend Peter. I feel so close to him, that on occassion I call him C.S. But seriously, I think the man is brilliant. I told my friend Ann the other day that I was pretty sure he was the modern day Paul. Naturally she retorted, "Perhaps in the circles you run with." Sometimes I think he is as beloved amongst searching Christians today as Paul was in his day.

Recently I've been reading The Four Loves, which has really made me contemplate how I interact with people. The "four loves" he discusses are: "affection", "friendship", "eros", and "charity". If I was prudent I would read the section on charity before I say anything more, but since I'm young and foolish I'll spout some of my opinions recklessly.

I really like the quote this blog starts with, and I love C.S. Lewis's definition of friendship. He makes a very marked difference between affection/need based friendship and true friendship. Friends, he says, often meet with this typical opening expression, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one." I think this is the reason that whenever I meet someone who is crazy enough to go run before the sun dawns they are my new instant best friend. This shared interest is the true bonding point of friendship.

Another favorite quote corresponds with why it is hard for some people to have true friendships. Lewis writes, "That is why those pathetic people who simply 'want friends' can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be 'I see nothing and I don't care about the truth; I only want a Friend,' no friendship can arise...There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something."

So the question becomes then, are many of our friendships true friendships or are they of some other nature? Often times our friendships are affection/need based. A "friendship" occurs if that person meets certain needs of yours, or you meet needs of theirs. This occurs more readily in "friendships" between the sexes and is often why these types of relationships struggle. Because they are more driven off of a give and take basis, they become more prone to hurt, anger, and ultimately destruction since the relationship is not based off of a shared interest.

I'm not sure what this all means. Certainly I shouldn't align myself with only runners. Or computer nerds. Or guys who like to talk about girls. But I think it does mean that I shouldn't just pursue friendships for the sake of friendships. It does me no good to fake interest in OU football, in attempts to make a friend. That person will see through me quicker than a Texas touchdown, much like I will see through them if they cannot even eek out a 12 minute mile. I think, though, it makes me evaluate my friendships that might possibly be need/affection based. If we are just using each other to meet some unfulfilled need, there might be a deeper issue that should be addressed. But then, there is this fourth love called charity....