We agree on a great deal, but . . . allow me to be a bit puckish . . .
It cannot be said that knowledge of the amazing career of Brett Favre is essential to a happy American life in the same sense that virtue is necessary. There is, after all, a possible world where one is both happy, a good American, and has no knowledge of Favre. So Matt Anderson is right and in the strictly logical sense of “essential” Favre isn’t necessary to American happiness.
However, Matt’s proposed substitutes for Mr. Favre and his exploits (Pickwick Papers and tinker toys) as light pleasures miss some of the point. They are not as good, in one way, as knowledge and joy in Favre’s deeds.
First, while timelessness is a great good (something tinker toys seem to possess, but Favre may not . . . though I am having my doubts), there is also something to be said for timeliness in our pleasures. Only the most useless curmudgeon (surely not Matt!) fails to see that relating to one’s mates about fun has a benefit that sitting alone in Nerd Exile playing with tinker toys does not. There is a conversation going on amongst millions of men and women which may not last forever, but it is happening now.
The small daisy of pop culture that blooms today is no great Everest of pleasure, but its very ephemeral nature means it must be enjoyed for what it is today or be lost forever. We can stand alone before Everest on any day, but Favre is saving his team right now.
Relating with our fellows about what has seized the public mind can be bad, can even consume, but it need not be bad kept in check. It is a deep pleasure to root for the home team in a living room full of one’s peers and know that Favre fans all over the nation are doing the same. It is obvious that this can go too far, but telling the sort of person who would frequent this blog that is like warning a Bible Baptist of the snares of Vegas.
If one worships in the Church of What is Happening Now, it must seem attractive to leave and join the Church of Only What Happened Yesterday, but both are bad congregations for the soul. We should avoid both errors. Surely we should read six or seven great books for every one new book . . . and entertain ourselves less, but best to set a good example of doing both rather than sounding like we simply scorn the new for the old.
Second, one fears that some nineteenth century Matt Anderson was sniffing about a culture awash in Pickwick while ignoring their Ovid . . . It must have been grand to read Pickwick while Dickens was writing it when all the references were still fresh and new. Why would anyone miss that sort of pleasure?
Finally, it is certainly true that hedonism (of which your entertainmentism seems but a form) is a great evil. We are all prone to it and it should be resisted. Our culture, perhaps especially evangelical culture, is awash in it. Living for these short term pleasures is wrong, a foolish sin.
However, I have found the best cure for many souls is to take seriously what entertains them and begin to ask them about it. Take one (best) example of pop culture and push it through discussion until it becomes a means of growth for the fan. By asking what one admires about Favre, and his heroic exploits, it is a short path to greater heroes and greater discussions. Love of Favre can be a kindergarten for learning what made men admire Achilles, Beowulf, and Wallace. This hero “worship,” because it is authentic, even if some marketing group at the NFL benefits from it, is closer to the experience of the folk through the ages than most of the “light” pursuits of intellectuals . . . themselves often marketed to us by people clever enough to not make their pitch obvious.
Of course I admire Saint Francis and the monastics a great deal, but we are all (sadly) not up to Francis. Millions of us in America (God help us!) begin with Favre, but can be extraordinary grace and the right teacher can be provoked to find our way to philosophy.
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