Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Television, death and loneliness

"One thing tv does is help us deny that we’re lonely. With televised images, we can have the facsimile of a relationship without the work of a real relationship. It’s an anesthesia of “form.” The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness. You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness, both of which are like sub-dreads of our dread of being trapped inside a self (a psychic self, not just a physical self), has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me. I’m not sure I could give you a steeple-fingered theoretical justification, but I strongly suspect a big part of real art fiction’s job is to aggravate this sense of entrapment and loneliness and death in people, to move people to countenance it, since any possible human redemption requires us first to face what’s dreadful, what we want to deny."
David Foster Wallace

How do you think we can give people the freedom to be themselves in our churches? Not in a 'be yourself', sweet, overly positive way, but a courageous, 'coming face to face with oneself' way.

Wallace's own fiction is an attempt to break with the passivity of television. You have to work your brain to 'get it' (though there is a great payoff in the end). How much of the message we give in church affirms passivity? In our desire to 'get the message across', how much are we encouraging passive receptivity? How could we say,in our preaching, approach Wallace's definition of real art fiction? How can we create an expectation that listening to a sermon will be joyful work? That it will not all be apparent at the surface, but will linger with an aftertaste? A sermon that haunts the world of the listener, turning up at surprising moments. Wouldn't that formally fit the work of the Spirit better?

Given Wallace's analysis about the fear of death, do you think our preaching of the resurrection helps, or functions in a similar way to television? How could we do it differently, since resurrection should also include the idea that you will die?

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