The Real World

By Kersley Fitzgerald

It seems this summer has been all about series. Dev and I watched all the episodes of Firefly. In the middle, we got caught up on the last half-season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so we'd be ready for Captain America: Civil War. Before Jason Bourne came out, we watched the previous three movies. And this year, usually in anticipation of new books, I've reread all of Rod Duncan's Gas-lit Empire series, all but the latest Longmire books, and six of Estelle Ryan's Genevieve Lenard mysteries. (So far. There are three I haven't gotten to.)

It was a few weeks ago that I came to a disturbing realization: I hear more words from the TV and movies than from live people in front of me. Far more. And I watch faces and body language on a TV more than real life. And it's all fake — even the reality shows. Even the news that's cut and pasted for time and content. Even the carefully-crafted stories that are designed to speak truth about the human condition. It's all contrived and controlled.

That's got to have a major effect on how I see other people. Why be considerate to the clerk when they'll disappear in the next scene? Why try to understand the obnoxious driver when I can just assume he's a stereotypical bad guy? It's far more efficient to assign everyone a role and treat them as plot points for my storyline.

What I expose myself to has great impact on what I think of others. It's natural to blame the media and what they choose to show. But we have today an unprecedented opportunity to find information. I can read a blogger from Africa or listen to StoryCorps or watch TED talks and learn about points of view far different from my own. I can learn about different cultures, and how Jesus is needed there. Real stories about real people and places, not crass fiction and un-reality TV that distorts my understanding of what the world really is.

Or, here's a thought, talk to real people. Instead of reading about an art insurance detective with high-functioning autism, I could talk to my friends on the spectrum. Or I could ask my gay friends what their lives are like. Or my friend who lives on a reservation in Montana. Or, here's a radical idea, actually find out if my neighbors three houses down are Indian or Pakistani and invite them over for dinner.

That's not to say that everything people say is true or edifying or encouraging. But it's still important to know what other people think and feel. We talk about being insulated in the church culture a lot, but I think the media culture is even more constricting. We choose what few shows to watch and books to read and spend more time listening to fictional super heroes than to our extended family or neighbors.

Maybe this is more of an introvert problem (although I'll bet there are plenty of extroverts who are surrounded by people they never listen to). And, to Jesus-juke my own article, yes — you have to have a firm foundation in the faith, know the Scriptures, and submit to the Spirit's leading in order to correctly interpret what the real world is telling you. And, in general, there's nothing wrong with fiction — we can learn a lot from it (as my previous post points out). But then, get into the real world. Talk to people and use media to discover others' points of view. Because I don't think that Jesus is really all that concerned with Jason Bourne's eternal destiny.

Image Credit: moise_theodor; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships

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Published 9-21-16