Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
I upgraded our new television package to the next step up. You know how all these things work, right…they start out with some number of channels that sounds like a lot when you say it out loud, but the basic package just includes Fox and CNN and Cartoon and local and a big ol’ bunch of jewelry on sale at 1 in the morning…and On-Demand…but if you spend another $20 you can have some of the good stuff. Well, we spent the $20. I was teasing my lady about how wonderful it was to put out just a little bit of cash, and be able to surround the love of my life with a bunch of man-bashing crap to remind her what towering assholes us guys are. No WAY can this turn out to be a mistake. She knows I don’t really mean it, that I understand she has the intellectual wherewithal to filter that crap out when she sees it. She also understands my feelings about television in general — I think it’s fair to say that since the 1950’s, it’s lost its luster as a “hub” in the living room, around which family members can gather and share a common experience and grow closer together. It’s become more of a wedge, in my opinion, that drives families apart if they allow it to.
It’s the programming. It’s just plain hostile. And not by accident. Men are idiots, unless they wear neckties at night, in which case they’re evil and might still be idiots. Women are only concerned about one thing, and that’s getting what they want out of life, hell with everybody else. Girls are concerned that everybody isn’t paying attention to them all the time, and boys are aspiring to grow up into sad, angry, sullen men with dirty consciences. Those are the straight people. The gay people are whining about how oppressed they are by the straight people, when they aren’t showing off how much more fun they are than those stiff-assed straight people. Ethnic minorities, well, they live in a whole different world. They seem a lot less integrated in the boob tube than they are in real life. I’ve come to see television as a hundreds-of-channels endless menagerie of different classes of folks, just spoiling for a fight, but presenting themselves as if they aren’t. As un-integrated as different classes of people can possibly get without heading for the hills away from each other as fast as their little legs can carry ‘em.
That’s what I’ve come to expect. But during my one marathon of television, nodding off and waking up and nodding off and waking up like a real December-25 lazy-man…I saw something else. Maybe this isn’t as bad, but I dunno. What I described above, you can escape. This stuff you can’t.
I’m referring to the de-commercialization of Christmas. I think it’s gone too far. Way too far.
Time after time after time, I saw these modern “Christmas stories” as having something to do with how evil material things are. Oh, I understand what is intended here, and I still think highly of the motives involved. But it seems there is a terrible misinterpretation taking place, perhaps even a usurpation.
The common thread I keep seeing is that there is a regrettable evil involved in simply earning the money. When I was a little kid we delighted in observing Ebenezer Scrooge to be a pitiful man on an errant path; we understood financial solvency was the least of his problems. But he was a parsimonious miser. He got his money by making people suffer, and he renegotiated his contracts with just as much ruthlessness as an independently-wealthy old man as he did when he was a skinny kid just getting started. And as that wealthy old man, his life was unhappy. He didn’t know what to spend the money on; he was just an empty shell, going through the motions.
And now? Every new Christmas story I see — someone needs salvation, a kick in the butt from a wiser all-knowing ghost, or simply to do some growing up. Because they made a life choice involving money. It can be something that doesn’t hurt anybody. Just taking a high-paying job. Our modern Scrooges are scolded, and then put through some melodramatic spiritual-cleansing process, after having indulged in a purely victim-less crime of getting rich.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it. But it bothers me tremendously when I see the same old story, but this time it appears someone’s been very careful to trim away any collateral damage. The whole point to “It’s A Wonderful Life,” for example, was not the welfare of George Bailey, but rather the welfare of everyone around him. People he spent his entire life helping, not even fully understanding how awful life would have been without him. The spoiler to Frank Capra’s classic is that the titular “Life” is not his at all, it’s everybody else’s.
I believe we are in the process of losing that. One made-for-TV that disturbed me greatly had to do with a gorgeous young red-haired lady who ditched her fiance and got a high-paying job in New York City, ending up spending Christmas alone because she had started an affair with her boss who it turned out wasn’t as quick to divorce his wife as she was led to believe. At the story’s conclusion she was able to mend her ways and ended up married to her boyfriend after all. Except — without any consequences. She was still rich. Richer than before, if I read the ending right. Everything was good now because she was the center of attention, and at the beginning, was not…and what about everybody else? Looked to me like all their lives were the same, one way or t’other.
All about her, her, her.
And it wouldn’t be fair for me to look that one up so I could single her out. It seems every single modern effort to re-tell “A Christmas Carol” makes the same, of what in my view is, a mistake. Something has been sacrificed for wealth, and with the help of some spiritual adviser a “new way” is found that undoes the sacrifice. The wealth remains. Nobody else is hurt; nobody else is helped.
It’s like the necessity to trash capitalism came first, and within that framework all the holes were filled in. To as scant an extent as could be possible. It’s like the television networks want to tell us the story of Scrooge, and at the same time, show us what he looks like.
There is another angle to this that I think needs to be considered. We happen to be living in an age in which we enjoy a number of opportunities to bring injury to one another, by capitalizing our various efforts inadequately. Yes, if you don’t spend enough on Christmas presents you might see some long faces when it comes time to open them. But there are other things. Drive without car insurance, you might change someone else’s life for the worse for a very long time. Grow old with debts and no coverage plans to take care of them, you make problems for your heirs. Fail to cover your burial costs, someone suffers. Get a divorce, your kids will have to grow up in a broken home.
And so to define poor spiritual health as a willingness to generate money, that and nothing more, in an age where spiritual health has so little definition — seems to me a recipe for disaster. We need money to survive. Money is supposed to be…and it seems to me, for the most part still is…a measure of what kind of help we are extending to our neighbors. Because whether we like to admit it or not, our nature is to take care of our own stuff — write blogs, watch television, go shopping, whatever. We’d just do what we want all day long, not helping others, if we could get away with it. If only someone would make us sandwiches and put a roof over our heads. But we aren’t here to do that, so sooner or later we need to go to work and do something FOR somebody else.
And get paid to do it. Well, hey — there’s a fine line between observing what people do when they aren’t paid to do it, and observing what people do when they think nobody’s watching. If we’re going to be so quick to judge each other, and I have many reasons for thinking that an unwise thing, I’d much rather see us judge each other according to the second of those two things than according to the first.
I guess what it all comes down to is, we’ve left ourselves open to manipulation for making Christmas into a season for the boob tube to be preaching at us. And as a middle-aged man, I’m just doing what middle-aged men do, which is to carp away about how much better things used to be. But in this case, I find it hard to sympathize with any other viewpoint. We’re being preached at by our television sets to not make any decisions that might result in money for ourselves…through programs that, I suspect, generated no small amount of money for the folks who put ‘em together for us. But the message from yesterday, had more to do with a lesson that we shouldn’t be dickholes to each other.
Maybe it’s because I like money, but I liked the lesson of old a lot better. Don’t make money…don’t be a dick. I wish, nowadays, there were some recently-made productions offering the lesson to potential viewers that they shouldn’t act like dicks. Maybe this is closing the barn door after the horse has left, but my Christmas television viewing has left me with the impression this is a lost art. It’s put something of a damper on my holiday, if only for a minute or two. Maybe my Christmases should all be television-free from here on in.
So I say, Happy 2008. Say please and thank you, even to people who are paid to be doing things for you. Hold doors open for people. Donate to worthy causes, put heavy suitcases in overhead bins for other people, pull over and help jump-start that guy’s car. And make as much money as you want, as long as it’s through honest means, and you aren’t taking advantage of people in their unfortunate economic circumstances or lackluster intellectual abilities. Just don’t screw people. They’re your brothers. Is that message so hard to get across that we have to simplify it for new generations?
I’d really like to think that is not the case. I’m convinced there are people who disagree with me about that…I’m just hoping that I’m right and they’re wrong…
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