I went to the funeral of our Pastor’s Mother-In-Law yesterday. We first met Lois Profit when she was 85. She would have been 93 this year. It’s amazing to think that you could meet someone so vibrant and active in life at her age, and that was in the last 7 (almost eight) years of her long life! She was a dear person, a devoted praying Christian, mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. We loved her a lot and we miss her, but are comforted by the fact that she’s with Jesus now, and with her first-born daughter Wanda Lou who died of cancer in childhood (at the age of 5 if I remember correctly). Lois was affected deeply by the loss of her daughter so early in life. It was a wound that never healed until this past Tuesday when she was reunited with her daughter.
Funerals always have that capacity to make us think what’s really important in life — at least Christian funerals do. We don’t dwell on the loss, rather we celebrate the life of the loved one who has gone to be with Jesus. We remember the impact they had for Jesus’ Kingdom on the lives of so many here on this earth. Lois had a great impact. She was a prayerful woman, a prayer warrior! I’m glad I knew her and look forward to seeing her again someday. What is it that makes us think so much about priorities at funerals that we seem to forget the rest of the time?
Well, we just get “caught up” the rest of the time, at least some of us do. I don’t even have a job right now, and it is terribly difficult to just live some days. I must fight the urge to panic and the temptation to be depressed, there’s anxiety, and self-doubt. Then I go to Networking events and talk with others who are all facing the same struggles. In the midst of the struggles you can get distracted, and forget that what’s really important is loving God and loving others. Jesus’ commandments to us still apply – even in the midst of the struggle.
So, how did this all get me to the question of “Loss of Culture?” We were sitting around talking after the funeral, remembering the stories Lois told, how those stories would now mostly be lost, except the few that she had passed on to her children and grandchildren. Those will be remembered and told, but probably eventually lost. I read in “Our Daily Bread” yesterday how students retain 5% of the “material” they are presented in the classroom. However, if the instructor tells a story, the students are likely to remember 50% – that’s TEN TIMES MORE – of the stories told! Was that the real reason Jesus spoke in parables? Was it because we’d “get it” and remember it better?
We talked at the funeral celebration about our stories, and how those were our “Culture.” Pastor Carol is famous in our congregation for her stories about growing up on Delaney Farm (here in Aurora, Colorado). She tells humorous and often anecdotal stories about the chickens and other aspects of farm life. You could see the heartfelt sorrow in her countenance when she said that her grandchildren don’t even want to hear those stories anymore. Why is that you say?
Today’s kids, in fact today’s “culture” has no interest in these old “stories.” How can that be? We live in a time of self-absorption, self-indulgence. We live in the ultimate “Me first” generation. Today’s kids are bombarded with messages, both overt and hidden. The media is full of sound-bites, video-bites, instant gratifications. The motto of this generation is “If it feels good, do it!”
What’s wrong with that you say? Well, the problem is that if you live your life seeking instant gratification, then you become a slave to that hedonistic (pleasure seeking) lifestyle. That’s just what Jesus was talking about when he said “You must take up your cross daily, deny yourselves, and follow me.” He wasn’t talking about becoming self-abnegating Monks, he was just telling us not to go around all day looking for our next “fix.”
I am a drug addict (clean and sober almost 27 years now). I know the reason I got started doing drugs was because they _feel_ so good. I would never deny that to anybody. They _do_ feel great! But, the problem is, and this is true of all activities that stimulate the “pleasure sensors” in our brain, is that simply seeking to stimulate your pleasure senses all the time is what I call “Self medicating.” You can do it through drugs, alcohol (a drug essentially) sex, food, games, or these days even the Internet! A life devoted to pleasure seeking is a life enslaved to something outside yourself that has control over you! _That_ is the problem.
Again, how does this pertain to “Loss of Culture” you ask? Well, the fact that we have so many in our society enslaved to seeking pleasure in any form, they are distracted from what’s really important in life. We are losing the battle, and are on the verge not only of raising a generation of kids who don’t know their Christian heritage, but they won’t even know their _Cultural_ heritage!
What is “Culture?” I would argue that those stories and anecdotes told by older generations are the culture that we should seek to preserve. Culture is not only the stories, but the art, the appreciation of art, literature, history and so on. The “appreciation” is passed down verbally through the “Art” of storytelling. It’s something that must be shared and passed from generation to generation. The good news is that we have the means now to share “culture” from one generation to the next: We have the Internet and the web.
In our discussions yesterday at the funeral I think we hit upon a key idea. The idea is that even with all the mind numbing distractions out there designed to “stimulate the pleasure centers” of our youth generation — those young people are still struggling with the same questions that man has had since the beginning: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” Those are still the same basic questions mankind has always dealt with. Questions of value, of self-worth. Where will my impact be on this world? How can I leave a lasting legacy? Am I special?
My point is proved simply. In this amazing tool we have (the Internet), there was a simple demonstration recently that shows us that this generation is not completely lost, nor are they so “blinded” with pleasure that they fail to recognize the answer to the question(s) when they see it. The latest “craze” on the Internet, one of them anyhow, is viral videos. We love to see people doing dumb things in front of a camera – right? But, what was the one top viral video of all times (at least in my opinion, everyone agrees it’s in the top three)? Susan Boyle. I’m not going to argue that Ms. Boyle is a simple woman who came from obscurity to _total_ world fame and glory overnight (literally) because of her talent. I’m going to argue that she went from obscurity to stardom because she is the definition of what we are looking for! She answered the question for us!
Ms. Boyle blew away the judges because she “appeared” ordinary. She also blew them away with her talent. My argument is that we all have talent, some kind of “gift.” It’s in us somewhere. What we really want to know is: “Does somebody else value that gift?” What we want to know is “Am I special?” Everyone _thought_ Susan Boyle was ordinary. Susan Boyle did not think so. She surprised probably the most cynical person on this earth – Simon Cowell! Why did she blow the judges away? Because she believed in herself? Hardly. She believes in Jesus – that’s why. She is a child of The King and she knows who she is. She also believed in the “gift” she had, her “talent” because Jesus believed in her singing ability too, in fact He gave her that ability. Because her “story” was like a fairy tale, the video of her performance, and indeed her rebuking of the cynical judges made history because Susan Boyle is a Child of God in the truest sense. We were able to capture her story and witness it through the media of the Internet and see that it impacted an entire world.
The answer to my main question then is that we are losing “Culture” everyday. It dies with a previous generation when they pass and don’t leave their legacy, their “stories” behind. We lose who they were, what they could teach us in a humorous or anecdotal story. We lose those “parables” if you will. We are losing them because we live in an age of “instant gratification” and young people are more interested in “media” than relationships. But, we have a means to capture those “stories” now with the Internet. We should strive as a people to preserve culture through this media as best we can so that we do not lose the “Culture” of those who went before us. They have something to teach us.
Even if we don’t agree that they have something to teach us, I think even the most cynical would agree that they have a point of view to express. We should listen to their point of view, to what they have to say. It’s like Tom Brokaw said in his book The Greatest Generation: He simply had no idea what his parent’s generation went through in World War II because they seemed so “ordinary” and they never talked about it. He never dreamed they had so much to share, that they had struggled so hard, fought so hard and endured so much – for us. When he realized that, he set about right away to record what those people had to say, what they could teach us about self-sacrifice, loss, about following Jesus to do what is right. No, Mr. Brokaw may have never spoken directly about Jesus in that book, but almost all the folks he interviewed told how The War was a spiritual battle as much as anything else.
And at the end of World War II we all found out that indeed (as General Eisenhower had said) our people had been on a “Crusade.”
That’s the bottom line: Loss of Culture is a loss of our spiritual heritage as well as loss of knowledge of art, history, literature and so on. We must not lose it!