February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
June 16, 2011
This is from A.G. Harmon’s “Bread and Circuses,” posted at Good Letters, the blog of Image:
Just as democracy requires care—the hard work of civic participation, and an often discomforting engagement with communal undertakings—lest the very thing that is so great about it, autonomy, degenerate into self-absorption, so does the mind require some type of resistance, lest those entertainments that enthrall us with their sparkling changefulness turn one means of knowing truth and beauty into a caricature of itself.
For it is a truism that modern life is largely visual; even the most important aspects of our culture are assessed upon their “telegenicity” and “punch.” The path can even be traced. According to Berger, the average shot length of American movies stood at 27.9 seconds in 1953. In 2007, it was 2.5 seconds.
Not only do we require novelty—something bigger and more engaging than the last thing that popped out of the box—but the speed at which these changes must occur is ramping up like a coke addict’s frenzy for a higher high.
If to exercise the body we must accept discomfort, pushing beyond pain, to exercise the mind requires a related effort, an involvement that rejects the passive, formaldehyde bath of strobing visuals. A human is more than his eyes—certainly more than his ocular reflexes—and to be human means breaking free of this dangerous trap.
Odysseus had to sail past the lotus eaters, restful and delicious as their land was, lest he be dragged down to an everlasting sleep. It seems modern man’s plight is avoiding that which bedazzles as much as that which sedates.
Still, either way, the alternative is an incapacitating torpor—a heedless stasis—a deadly lie that wears the mask of peace.
Jeffrey Overstreet watches far too many movies, writes film reviews and two weekly columns for ChristianityTodayMovies.com, maintains the Web site LookingCloser.org, contributes to Paste Magazine, and is at work on a series of novels. He works at Seattle Pacific University.