Weird Is as Weird Does

Once each week I try to find a commercial or short video that reflects an aspect of the Kingdom of God in some positive way. Today, however, I instead present a commercial that I think illustrates a common problem of our day: excessive idiosyncrasy. The singer in the background croons, “We are all strange,” while the footage shows some of the strange and outlandish ways that people dress and act today.

I suppose that back in the 1950s and before we were a little too conformist, and many people were pressured to comply to a rather narrow and rigid definition of what was proper. I would argue that today we have gone too far in the other direction. Every day things seem to get stranger and stranger. There is a kind of existentialism prevalent that says, “I’ll make up my own reality and live within it. You need to adjust to me.” At some point such an attitude offends against the common good.

What is displayed in many of the images in this commercial is more than mere cultural diversity; it seems to be just weirdness for its own sake. It’s as if people are daring me to make a comment so that they can upbraid me for my narrow-mindedness (or bigotry or hatred). The overall effect of the commercial is not a positive one. The depictions are strange, chaotic, and unappealing—in some cases even ugly. To a large degree, though, this is where we are in this country today.

Watch it, and see what you think!

 

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Weird Is as Weird Does

Words Do Not Make Reality, As Seen in a Commercial

The situation of the man in this commercial reminds me of modern life in general. We talk a lot about freedom, but compulsiveness, addiction, and lack of self-control are more the case with the average person.

We have collectively rejected the “Ten Big Laws of God,” declaring our freedom from being told what to do. But the result has not been that we have fewer laws; rather we now have thousands of “little laws,” imposed upon us through oppressive government, by which we are told what we must do under penalty of law.

Many cultural revolutionaries have marched under the banners of freedom and tolerance, but once having gained a foothold they have tyrannically forced their agenda on others by law. The talk of tolerance and respect for differences turned out to be just that—talk.

The man in this advertisement talks a lot about how important mobility is to him, but the reality of his life is far from his self-description. In fact, he seems quite unaware of his condition. Does he not seem familiar?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Words Do Not Make Reality, As Seen in a Commercial

Life Is Hard, as Seen in a Commercial

The following commercial illustrates the truth that “life is hard.” In this case, it comes in the form of being pelted with items ranging from broccoli to rubber duckies to an entire wedding cake. These sorts of things are only important in a decadent, privileged cultural environment. In less privileged parts of the world people struggle with basics like getting enough to eat, finding shelter from the elements, and avoiding fatal diseases. Most of the “problems” we have in the modern United States are ones others wished they had.

Nevertheless, the basic truth remains: life is hard. Its challenges are many, and God permits them to humble us and to help us grow. You have to be tough to endure. The Lord expects us to “man up” to our challenges.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Life Is Hard, as Seen in a Commercial

A Guardian Angel Unlike Any You’ve Ever Seen!

Most of us have sentimental notions about angels in general and guardian angels in particular, yet the Bible depicts then as powerful, fierce, and almost warlike. They are holy and good, but their glory overwhelms. In Scripture, people encountering angels are often disconcerted and filled with fear.

Many of us think of the angels as here more to help us, but God tells us to obey them.

[The Lord God says,] See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you (Exodus 23:20-22).

Angels are to be revered and respected; they are not the prancing, doll-like figures we often imagine.

I do not write this to dash sentimental notions, only to add balance. Our angels love and serve us, but they do this with a divine authority that we ought not to trivialize.

For some reason I thought of all this when I ran across this commercial first shown during the Super Bowl in 2003. It featured linebacker Terry Tate, who is brought into a business to “motivate” the workers to follow their better natures. I am certainly not implying that angels act in this manner, but I have often wondered whether my own guardian angel doesn’t sometimes need tactics like this in order to shape me up!

Enjoy the commercial, and remember to obey your guardian angel!

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: A Guardian Angel Unlike Any You’ve Ever Seen!

Slowing Down for the Best of Meals as Seen in a Commercial

Most of us who fly with any regularity have learned to tolerate airline food. Frankly it isn’t terrible, but we all know something better. It’s too bad the plane can’t stop at a nice restaurant, but I guess that would defeat the main purpose of flying: getting to our destination quickly. Most people aren’t willing to slow down to get something better.

But that is exactly what the Church bids us to do on Sundays: slow down, go to Mass, and receive the bread of finest wheat, the Eucharist. It does require us to “detour” from the world, to remove ourselves for a while from all its rushing about and come for the best meal, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Enjoy this unusual commercial that envisions more satisfying food on planes:

 

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Slowing Down for the Best of Meals as Seen in a Commercial

Photo credit: A. Takemoto, Wikimedia Commons

Our Strengths Are Often Our Struggles

One of the things that I have learned about myself, and humans in general, is that our strengths are very closely related to our struggles. Some people are very passionate; this makes them dedicated and driven to make a difference. But it also makes them prone to anger or depression. Their passion in one area (e.g., truth, justice) can cause difficulties with passions in other areas such as sexuality, food, or drink. Passionate people can inspire others and are often great leaders. But they also run the risk of crashing and burning, whether emotionally or morally.

At the other end of the spectrum, consider those who are very relaxed and steady emotionally. They are thoughtful, thinking and acting deliberately. They are calm under pressure, not easily excited. They make good diplomats; they are the sort to bring conflicting parties together. But such people may often struggle to maintain integrity. Sometimes they make too many compromises and forget that there are things that are worth being angry about, worth fighting for. If a person never gets worked up, it could be because he doesn’t care enough about important issues. There’s a saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.

This is part of what makes human beings complex and fascinating. There is a certain tipping point at which a virtue becomes a vice either by excess or defect. St. Thomas Aquinas said, In medio stat virtus (Virtue stands in the middle).

And thus in our example here of the passion of anger, the virtue to be sought is meekness. Aristotle defined meekness as the proper middle ground between too much anger and not enough.

The unusual commercial below shows an example of underwhelming joy. It is humorously portrayed in a perfectly deadpan way. But like anger, joy indicates a zeal for what is good, true, and beautiful (even if the subject is just shoes). It is certainly a virtue to be emotionally balanced, avoiding silliness and frivolity. But the strength of a stable and balanced personality can too easily become indifference about things that are important and should bring joy.

Think of someone you love. I’ll bet the thing you like most about him or her is often the very thing that frustrates you the most. Now think about yourself. What are your strengths? Are they not in fact closely related to the areas in which you struggle the most?

Enjoy this humorous commercial. In his subdued joy, is he exhibiting admirable control or is his heart dull? Is this virtue (balance) or is it a defect?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Our Strengths Are Often Our Struggles

The Two Worlds, as Seen in a Commercial

The commercial below contrasts two worlds. The first is the loud, chaotic world, of which Satan is prince—and he wants all your attention. The second is the quieter, more serene, more beautiful world of the Kingdom, of which Christ is King and Mary is Queen Mother. Choose for yourself.

St Anselm writes:

Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him. Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him. And when you have shut the door, look for him, speak to God … (Proslogion, Chapter 1).

 

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Two Worlds, as Seen in a Commercial

Time to Upgrade

The world often tries to present itself as the latest and the greatest, but that’s only true on the surface—if at all. The Scriptures see the world as old and outdated, as passing away:

      • For this world in its present form is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).
      • The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:17).
      • For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18).

The tennis player in the commercial below is using an outdated racquet, and it hinders her game; it’s time for her to upgrade her equipment. This is true for each of us, too. The Lord says to each of us,

      • My friend, come up higher (Lk 14:10).
      • If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:1-2).

Upgrade your life. Rise above fleshly and passing things to spiritual and eternal ones. Step up to higher and better things. Accept the upgrade of grace, which will permit you to reach your full potential.

It’s time for an upgrade!

 

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Time to Upgrade