The following commercial inadvertently highlights some interesting moral and spiritual issues. It is an advertisement for some sort of virtual reality (VR) game and encourages us to “defy reality.” The protagonist is a young man engulfed in the VR world of Star Wars, where he valiantly slays dangerous enemies attacking from all directions. He is then jolted back to reality and confronted by an older man who chides him with “You used to be such a nice boy; now look at you!” The young man responds to the confrontation with reality by retreating back into his VR world.
In the largely adolescent culture that seems to have taken over, norms and limits are seen as undesirable and unreasonable. Those who summon us to reality are viewed merely as hopelessly out-of-touch scolds.
To be sure, games, movies, fantasy, and other diversions have their place, but there isa real word that must be accepted for what it is. Real life can be incredibly beautiful, but it also can be hard; we don’t have light sabers at hand to solve our problems. Indulging in too much fantasy can make us resentful of the real world and its legitimate demands.
Fantasy also reinforces the flawed notions of existentialism and solipsism, namely, that we can just make things up and declare our own meaning. Our culture is currently suffering from these ideas; the most extreme example is so-called “transgenderism,” in which individuals indulge the fantasy that they are something other than the males and females they are. Ideologues who promote this fantasy then demand that the rest of us go along with it, threatening punishment if we refuse. More widely, our culture is also marked by its inordinate focus on the individual at the expense of the common good. Virtual reality games are certainly not the sole cause of this, but they do help to reinforce it.
Finally, engaging in too much retreat into fantasy tends to make reality seem boring by comparison. Most video games are fast paced, requiring split-second decisions and rapid-fire responses. Many require violence in order to “win.” Too much of this can make ordinary human interactions seem dull and slow. A college student going from playing a VR game one moment to taking notes in a lecture hall the next must cross a wide gulf.
Much more could be said on this topic, but Friday posts are meant to offer brief insights taken from the current culture world. Ponder the following advertisement and ask yourself, “Is it really healthy to defy reality?”
Most of us struggle with one of more of our passions: anger, love, sorrow, desire for food or drink, desire for sexual intimacy, desire for possessions, desire for popularity, and so forth. None of these is inherently wrong; indeed, they are good as they come from the hand of God. They become sinful when focused on the wrong object or when they become excessive. The key is to learn to master them through moderation/self-control and by focusing them on the purpose for which they are intended.
This year’s John Lewis Christmas commercial features a young fire-breathing dragon who, though not fierce, has an ability that he cannot seem to control. He must learn to use it only at the proper time and for good purposes. Allow his ability to breathe fire to represent a passion (e.g., anger, love). Observe the damage caused when this passion is uncontrolled or focused on the wrong things, but also observe the blessing brought when the young dragon learns to master it and use it for a good purpose.
It seems to me that the world is resembling an insane asylum more and more each day. If you think I exaggerate, just turn on the news for a moment. I don’t think you need me to provide a long list to know what I mean. A good example of the lunacy is that many people today consider it reasonable for a man to compete in a women’s sporting event simply by declaring that he “feels” he is a woman. I have pity for the individual men involved and believe that they should receive help. However, when entire segments of the population, including legislators and judges, go along with the delusion and try to force us to play along with it, we must conclude that madness has descended on our culture. I will not say more; this one example is sufficient evidence enough of the collective, growing lunacy.
In the commercial below a woman returns to her home to find a ludicrous situation inside. In response, she retreats back into her car. As for me, I escape to a nearby tabernacle, where things still make sense. Jesus is the Truth.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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