Perusing the bookshelf

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


4 thoughts on “Perusing the bookshelf

  1. I am glad you are getting something out of Consumed now. Part of me would say that it was getting redundant, then I realized that he was hitting on the same issue from several different angles. But the idea that privatization hurts the notion of liberal democratic citizenship is, I think, his most novel and important contribution there.

    I am actually assigning it for my senior capstone class this term. That followed by Oryx and Crake, which is a novel that basically shows us where, unmitigated, Barber’s argument could go. The final piece is The Islamist by Ed Husein which is a fantastic narrative of how a smart young man got sucked in to British Islamism. Eye-opening stuff. Hope they dig it as much as I.

  2. LOVED Oryx and Crake. Scariest book ever (which, after Handmaid’s Tale is saying a lot). I swore off hormone meat after that one.

    Did you get trinitarian symbolism out of it? I did, but then when I talked to a friend about it, she thought I was stretching it.

  3. Putting the words “hormone” and “meat” together kind of freaks me out without even knowing of the phrase “bucket o’ nubbins”!

    I thought of the trinity which is there, but not too deeply. I was more enamored with Snowman’s myth development and the consumerism gone wild piece. I am looking forward to reading it again with the class this fall though!

  4. Regarding the younger/older thing: a quasi-quote from C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia,” volume 3 or 7 I believe, when Susan Pevensie is a teenager:

    “Susan wanted only to arrive at the silliest stage of her life as soon as possible, and remain there as long as possible.”

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