First, I’m reading Consumed by Benjamin R. Barber, which has some interesting ideas in it. One of the main points that I’ve taken from it is advertiser’s ability to create need where we don’t have one. And one of the major ways they can do it is by manipulating what age we strive for. In other words, when we are younger, we long to be older. And when we are older, we long to be younger.
I see this as a mom. My daughter has been buying toy cell phones, pretend make-up, and play ipods since she was a toddler. I fully realize that kids have always played house and doctor, but it seems like there’s something else going on. Kids don’t want to just pretend to be adults, but children want to live like teenagers.
It goes the other way around too, with no one wanting to grow old. Viagra and plastic surgery have kept a generation of grandparents looking and acting like they’re thirty. We seemed to have lost the ability to be content with who we are.
I got annoyed with the book when he was ranting about people in their thirties trying to act like they are in their twenties (It hit a nerve, perhaps? Too close to home? I was okay until he started talking about me). He brought up things that I do, like wear a backpack instead of a brief case. And I was going into a defensive diatribe in my mind, But I wear a backpack because it’s better for my back. We gave up having two cars for the environment, and so I often have to walk over a mile to get home from work. I just can’t use a briefcase and carry my laptop and all those books for a mile….
It was more than hitting too close to home, though. The book has a tone of an extended rant, which made me feel defensive when I actually agreed with a lot of what he said.
Another is The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, which is talking about how our culture is moving from one of hits, to one of hits and niches. Anderson talks a lot about the music industry and how the ipod’s changed it. Now that we don’t have to have the hard media, now that we can now hold the contents of a record store in the palm of our hands, we are choosing more off-the-beaten-path music, and niche markets are growing.
It seems like this shift is occurring in our churches as well. It has always been (and still is, to a certain extent) that the people who lead our conferences and our continuing education events were all pastors of churches of thousands. They would tell the rest of us what they were doing, and we would write down notes. We would learn about the technology, and drama, and programs, and music that were so out of reach in our own congregations. We would be inspired, but then we would return with a bit of despair. The massive congregation with thousands of members was the hit, and became the norm for the rest of us. But we knew that it was out of our reach.
Many of us are moving away from that now. Just like parts of our culture are moving away from the hits and finding their own niches–the music, books, entertainment that make the most sense in their own contexts–we are beginning to see more dignity, value, and worth in our small communities of faith. The churches that are taking care of one another. The ones that are less about entertainment, and more about those rudimentary connections with God and one another.
photo’s by One Cool Cat