My guilty pleasure
I’ve mentioned my personal trainer, Charlie, before. Between the beat down sessions he inflicts on me, I enjoy trying to give him a bit of his own medicine-at least verbally. A sort of pay it backward for all the cans of whup-ass he’s opened on me.
So, I’m not quite sure what came over me last week when I started off a discussion with, “Now, if you ever mention this to Dianne or any of the other lady trainers around here, you’ll never see my face again. But, I’ve pretty much become a Hallmark Channel addict.”
“Yeah,” he answered, as we both began dissolving into uncontrollable laughter, “Beth likes it too. Whenever she turns it on, she has a box of Kleenex beside her. She calls it the Cry Baby Channel.”
I’ve seen this movie before
“Yeah,” I said, still trying to stifle my guffaws, “you don’t even need to watch the show to know what happens. There’s some guy from the city who works at a ruthless real estate investment company that likes to go into a small town, buy it up for development, and ruin it.”
“Yeah,” continued Charlie, his face covered with mirth, “then he bumps into some cute young woman who runs the town coffee shop. And who’s the daughter of the guy who owns the beautiful, local vineyard who’s decided it’s time to cash in his chips and sell out. Because he doesn’t know that his daughter would really like to take over the winery.”
“Yeah,” I reply, now wiping the tears of laughter from my face, “then the city slicker and the beautiful coffee shop girl bump into each other and get into a squabble. Before they eventually team up and turn the coffee shop into the next Starbucks, fend off the nasty real estate company and manage to keep the vineyard in the family’s hands. And then finally getting married in the old barn that they completely renovate over the course of three days. All while the city slicker makes a clean break with his icky, former girlfriend. And then, after the show’s one modest kiss at the wedding ceremony, settling down happily ever after in a rustic log mansion beside the vineyard overlooking the lake.”
Make fun if you want
It’s probably not a coincidence that I happen to be listening to English philosopher Roger Scruton’s book, Beauty: A Very Short Introduction. In this intellectually dense work, Scruton makes the case that true beauty, whether in art, literature, or music is a reflection of the divine and so invites us to participate in that divine life.
But, Scruton continues, “beauty” has been turned on its head and corrupted in two ways by what passes for “art” in our age. First, and probably most obviously, by the desecration of art by way of pornography, violence, and the postmodern rejection of all value and meaning.
Scruton, however, goes on to decry “kitsch” as the reverse side of the pornography coin. Defined as “something tawdry . . or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste,” there’s little doubt that the Hallmark Channel churns it out by the boatload. And it’s far from beautiful. Saccharine sweet, kitsch is grist for overactive tear ducts. Agree with him or not, Scruton argues that no more than the sleazy film, Pretty Woman, does kitsch invite us to genuine participation in the holy.
But there’s still a difference
Now, far be it from me to argue with Scruton, who’s written over 50 books on aesthetics and political philosophy-but I still say he’s missed the mark on this one. Yes, kitsch might not do much to raise our sights to the heavens. But that’s a far sight from pornography’s invitation to lower our sights to the fetid mire-and then get down and wallow in it.
A plea for attention
You probably remember the storm of controversy that arose from Piss Christ, an alleged “work of art” that depicted Jesus on a crucifix submerged in a jar of the artist’s urine. No doubt, the “artist” achieved his objective with the display: for one brief moment, the art world turned its brightest lights on him.
How pathetic, then, that Psalms tells us that there’s no place where we aren’t eternally at the center of attention of the only One that really matters:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Now, it’s a fact that being at the center of the Lord’s attention isn’t always comfortable. And you know what I’m talking about. But you’d better get used to it. And make your peace with it. Because we’re going to be there, for better or worse, for a very long time.
And what better time to get all that figured out than Easter? When we celebrate the One who gave his all on that crucifix to allow us to forever enjoy a peace that passes all understanding at the very heart of Beauty.