Monday, November 11, 2019

Lulled by Shadows

Like a lot of people, when I am down sick, I tend to binge-watch television shows. I am down at least 2 days a week so I love my niece for providing me with a Netflix subscription. A couple of weeks ago, I started watching (for the first time ever) Grey's Anatomy. It has been a decent distraction - which is going to be part of my point here in a moment. While I was watching the show a few days ago, I had two thoughts that stay with me. First, Ellen Pompeo who plays Meredith Grey is probably a really nice lady but she has a voice that drives me bonkers. It's got a whiny I'm-a-cute-wittle-gurl quality that grates on my last good nerve. Second, the show is addictive enough that I keep watching even when I wish someone would dub over Pompeo's voice.

Something else occurred to me (and not for the first time ever) is probably not news to anyone: TV shows and movies seem to be socially programming us. And before you stop reading because you think I am riding my theory horse named Conspiracy, let me try to explain what I mean.

Noun  (uncountable) 1. The process by which the ideas, concepts and beliefs of the society in which we live are ingrained into our psyche. The process is usually by authoritative decree or by assimilation. 2. The ideas, concepts and beliefs of our social environment that become ingrained in our psyche. (from

Usually, when I watch television shows, I'm not in thoughtful mode. I watch TV when I don't feel well or want to be distracted from serious thought. One evening though, I was paying attention to how a particular episode of Grey's Anatomy made me feel.

What I realized is that I was equating the actors' real selves with the characters they play. As if I just knew that the actor portraying the doctor with the great hair and nicely twinkling eyes must be as sweet and charming in his own real life. And the same with the other actors portraying the smart, on-the-ball surgeons. They must all be just as smart and on-the-ball in their real and everyday lives, right?

I realized that we are being lulled into blurring the lines between entertainment and reality. This is why we have people who are obsessed with being Instagram-famous. This is why so many people who have real and ordinary lives don't think that it's enough to have real and ordinary lives. There are people portraying themselves online as being more "attractive", wealthier, and more well-traveled than they actually are.

By the way, I found this video interesting and thought some comic book fans might want to see it

Entertainment focuses on the "X" or the mysterious "it" factor of certain people. TV shows and music - any visual media - will make us feel that we should want to be more like the people we are watching.

One thing that pulled me out of being hypnotized by Grey's Anatomy is that I noticed that as smart and accomplished as all the characters are, they have the same shortcomings as real people who try emulating them. Most of them are sexually confused or loose with their bodies. Some of them are - in spite of all their career success and material wealth - lonely and unhappy.

Why wouldn't the writers just show these people as a little more perfect? They could still have some good plotlines without exposing these kinds of flaws to the extent they do. I think that this is done on purpose. Maybe the writers leave in all the misery so that the viewers connect with the characters' flaws enough that they don't see the rest of how they are being programmed to want all the perfect stuff. I don't know if that made sense, but I'm sure that most of you can see what I am trying to say. If we were trying to be as perfect as the characters but were feeling the loneliness and pain in our own lives, we might realize that no one is meant to be like the characters.

I know some people who get so involved in fictional characters and storylines that they lose track of what's going on in their own lives. Entertainment, in general, is training us to base our real-life goals on fictional people. We are starting to get our ideas about intelligence, beauty, morals, and other things based on scripted situations.

Former Facebook Exec
see what he says
We have people living their lives - or trying or pretending to - based on something they have seen onscreen. Entertainment is a powerful hypnotist. We take our cues about current fashion and trends from what we see celebrities doing - in real life or onscreen. Even our emotions are being hijacked and re-trained.

In TV shows and movies, there are all kinds of cinematic tricks to keep us focused on imaginary worlds and made-up lives. Camera movements and music - swelling or ominous or era-specific - to cue out tears or laughter or nostalgia. We can get so emotionally moved by these scripted stories while our real-life suffers.

In real life, we forget to check in on people off-line. We give more emoti-hugs, emoti-smiles, and emoti-waves instead of the real thing. We make hash-tagged trends and share our social media "thoughts and prayers" instead of taking time to actually spare a real thought or prayer for the people in our real lives.

I guess the thing we have forgotten - or been brainwashed out of remembering - is the important rule of "everything in moderation". Media doesn't want us to remember that because entertainment is designed to addict us into a distraction from real lives and real people and real issues.

There has been this trend in my very own family that I despise. Most of my family is on Facebook. That's fine because that is a great platform to share photos. The problem I have is that Facebook has replaced that occasional hey-how-are-you kind of phone call. It's replaced the keepsake wedding invitations and birth announcements. It has even replaced those little printed obituaries that my mother used to keep in her Bible.

So my problem is not with Facebook - or any other social media platform. My problem is with the people who have let them replace parts of life. When you don't make the phone calls, how can you pick up clues in someone's voice that they might not be "fine"? Without those paper invitations and announcements, how do we sit around one day and start looking over those memories? And what do I fold up to keep in my Bible to remember the dead?

There are even executives from some social media brands who see problems in these platforms.

So, I guess I just want to ramble on here about how we have let things get out of control with media. We are losing ourselves and our daily reality. We are becoming programmed by the things we created to enjoy. With all the talk of developing advanced AI, maybe we ought not to be worried about AI or robots taking over because we've already given in to something else.

Before I go, while I was searching for images to post here, I found this article on this blog. The photo of addiction that the blogger posted is perfect.

Another rabbit hole you might want to go down has to do with something called "priming" as it relates to people as consumers. You can start here if you want.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Unanswered Prayers & Hidden Blessings

I often grab onto a specific thing from reading or studying the Bible. That thing - a particular passage or a piece of a lesson - will stay on my mind for days. Something in one of my recent Bible study sessions left me reflecting on the spiritual realm that exists around us - the angels we may have unwittingly entertained and demons we have been protected from. This stayed on my mind for days and I would just have to stop whatever I was doing to reflect on it for a moment. Sometimes, whatever I am meditating on will touch upon something in my life.

I was posting a review on Being Free the other day and, as I've been doing lately, I attached an INXS "The Stairs" music video at the end. Though it's not a Christian song (and the band's artwork was anything but Christian), it has lyrics that are so true to our everyday lives so I will post it here because it prompted the thought I want to talk about here.

For those who don't know, Hutchence, the vocalist and main songwriter for the band, died at a young age (37) from what most people think was a suicide while others speculate that it was something sordid that I won't mention. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) a few years before and it apparently affected his mood and outlook on life. Suicide seems the more plausible cause of death, in my uneducated opinion. He was found deceased and alone in a hotel room in a busy Australian city. It looks as if he hanged himself. I remember hearing the news when it happened back in 1997 and thinking how sad it was.

As you can see from the video, the lyrics are haunting and a cause for reflection. On the video page, another viewer commented on how eerie it was that Hutchence's "Stairs" lyrics were similar to the way he died. I hadn't thought of that before but it's true.

(By the way, you are about to find out that I spent way too much time thinking about the celebrity crushes of my youth...)

Now, because this band was such a huge success back when I was in my thirties - Hutchence would now be about my age - and still keeping up with all things music, fashion, and celebrity, I knew a lot about his public life. For all his charm and politeness, Hutchence seemed to be a  very actively sexual womanizer. Women loved him - I and all my friends sure thought he was the hottest thing since Tobasco and would have been thrilled to have five minutes of his attention. He must have been nice to the women in his life because, even after he dumped them, they apparently kept up friendships with him. I never read of any woman badmouthing him. He was still the best of friends with his first serious girlfriend - to the point that she was the last person he called before he died.

I know one more thing about INXS. They, at one early point in their group life, almost became a Christian band. I think that had to do more with someone's idea of potential marketing than with any of the guys' spiritual leanings. I can only speculate. Again, I am in no position to comment on anyone's religious life. So, this is the part where I get back to my meditations on my Bible studies.

As I said, I had been thinking a lot about the unseen spiritual realm - our protections and potential predators. And I thought about all the times, I desired something that was never granted - aka unanswered prayers. Prayers for things I should never have been praying for in the first place.

INXS worked extremely hard and from young ages for their eventual success. It was often reported that Hutchence had from the beginning told his bandmates and family that he had his heart set on "world domination" as a performer. He loved fame and its trappings. ('Trappings'. What a curiously appropriate word in this context, right?) He loved all things sensual - women, food, wine - and he loved being a rockstar. He seemed to have gotten all that he wanted. Answered prayers.

I think about all the things my young and foolish heart prayed for. If I had been given everything my physical self used to want so badly, I don't know what condition my soul would be in now.

I am not making any judgments about Hutchence or anyone else. I don't know what his final moments were like or what last prayers he offered up. I don't know about anyone's soul but my own. I do pray that Hutchence, in his pain and heartache, managed to breathe out some kind of plea to God.

What I am musing on is how thankful I might should be that so many of my foolish prayers were not answered. There have been times when I tried to force the answer I wanted for my life or situation. That has never turned out well. Whenever I have tried to live my life on my strictly human and finite terms, whatever happiness I gain only lasts until it doesn't. And it never lasts forever.

So I know that sometimes when I don't understand why my way to something seems so blocked, there is a reason. I know that God watches over and protects my foolish human self from some of my own desires because He loves me.

If I'd had my way, I would have ended up in a relationship with at least 3 of the worst people I could be with. I actually did end up with the fourth one of those people. Even now, there are times when I don't like the right choice about things and I am tempted to try to find another way - my way. I have mostly learned though that my way usually leads me in the wrong direction. I am learning to pray and listen.

It's been said and sung about before, but the unanswered prayer is often the biggest blessing we can get. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

**BOOKS** "Hidden Treasures: In the Biblical Text"

This is a post that I was originally only going to publish on Free and Faith. I decided that it's one of those books that could be of interest to everyone - whether Christian or not.

By the way, I am always astonished at people who will devote a lot of time studying secular subjects such as philosophy but never think to look seriously at the Bible. It might surprise even Christians to know how much of human history and secular history is corroborative. I have one acquaintance who, like myself, loves the Matrix movies. He can discuss the philosophies and mythologies of that series until the cows come home. When I once mentioned to him how the Bible runs deeper and is more complex than that work of fiction, he basically snorted at me. It was a friendly snort and done with love but, in his view, the Bible is a simple book of fables. If he only spent a little time exploring the book, it's languages, and its complexities, his mind would be truly blown. He's a very intelligent man and so curious about all things - except the Bible. And that is kind of ignorant.

I have been doing a lot of Bible study for the past couple of years. I have read the Bible many times but I have only recently been going deeper into the study of it. I have some trouble sorting and keeping information straight but I don't mind repeating lessons.

The study I started a while back is one by Chuck Missler - Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, which can be found in video format on a YouTube playlist and on Amazon Prime Video. It can also be found in audiobook form through Audible and via local library media streaming services like Overdrive and Hoopla Digital. I think the last time I mentioned it was when I was posting about my news-fatigue. I kept getting as far as Hour 9 and having to go back to the beginning. I have now ordered the book so that I can make notes as I go through the video lessons.

The Chuck Missler book I wanted to mention to everyone today is called Hidden Treasures: In the Biblical Text. And if you wonder why I study so many lessons by the same teacher, that's because I am very careful who I study under. Not every teacher is godly or has good intentions.

Anyway, this current book is one that I want to recommend to my friend the next time I see him. I have listened to his detailed thoughts on various philosophers and teachings so I want to challenge him to think about things from where I sit. Another Missler book on angels would probably be extremely interesting to students of physics. I was no genius in school but Angels Volume 1: Cosmic Warfare introduced me to quantum physics in an exciting way that I could relate to. Trust me when I tell you that while I had heard of Max Planck, I had no clue before why he won a Nobel. I am forever fascinated now! And my friend will be interested in learning that Missler shows why he believes we live in a digital universe. Wha-??? How Matrix-like is that?

I will do a post on the Angels series another time. Back to Hidden Treasures...

One of the most interesting lessons in this little book gives the reader an assignment to design a genealogy with 14 very specific criteria. Once you attempt to do this and realize how difficult (if at all possible), you are presented with how it was completed in the Person of Christ.

The first of 14 criteria

Another thing I am enjoying about this study is that I get to delve more into the Greek and Aramaic languages and history. I  have been able to study some common world history right alongside that shown in the Bible. It's fascinating stuff.

Like I said, I wanted to post this here because I wanted people who may not be Christian to know about the book. I want to challenge some of you to not just sit back and snort at the idea of a belief in Scripture but to at least know what you are scoffing at. Like any serious thing, the Bible is not something to be glossed over. In order for us Christians to confidently believe in the Gospel, we have to know it. The same goes for those people who may want to deny it. How can you deny what you don't know?

Anyway, I hope that this post encourages more people to study the Bible and the history it comes out of. It won't hurt that you will learn something about world history in the process. I was stunned by how much of the history I learned in school has to do with the history of the faith I profess.

By the way, that challenge to design a genealogy? You will get to study for yourself how all the criteria were met in the genealogy of Christ in the first 11 verses of the (Greek language) Gospel of Matthew.


And, instead of music today, I thought this was more appropriate