You’ve got to love the internet–one moment your quickly checking your google reader and the next your reading a post about David Foster Wallace’s thoughts on the destructive tendencies of TV sitcoms. While I don’t know much about Wallace, I can with confidence say that his ideas about irony and ridicule in our society, found here, are dead on:
“And to the extent that it [TV] can train viewers to laugh at characters’ unending put-downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art-form, television can reinforce its own queer ontology of appearance: the most frightening prospect, for the well-conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others’ ridicule by betraying passé expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability. Other people become judges; the crime is naiveté. The well-trained viewer becomes even more allergic to people. Lonelier”
“The assumptions behind early postmodern irony…were still frankly idealistic: it was assumed that etiology and diagnosis pointed toward cure, that a revelation of imprisonment led to freedom. [Rortyan irony?] So then how have irony, irreverence, and rebellion come to be not liberating but enfeebling in the culture today’s avant-garde tries to write about? One clue’s to be found in the fact that irony is still around, bigger than ever after 30 long years as the dominant mode of hip expression. It’s not a rhetorical mode that wears well. As Hyde (whom I pretty obviously like) puts it, ‘Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage.’ This is because irony, entertaining as it is, serves an almost exclusively negative function”
As I interact with many people I notice how people under the age of 40 live on irony, and I often feel like everyone is constantly worried about that they will say something that will leave them open for ridicule.
Irony is what we use to to fill in every gap and pause in a conversation. We are looking for places to through a barb in, but what does this do to our relationship?
I must confess that I live out this kind of TV humor the most with my wonderful and gracious wife who deserves none of it. Jo I’m sorry.
What do you think is Wallace right? Is irony a cage? Are we allergic to real interactions with people because we fear ridicule?
If Wallace is right how can we fi it?
This week I had this great plan to take half the day on Friday and start our trip up to my step sisters wedding in NY. The problem is sometimes plans don’t work out, and for the third time in less than a year we found ourselves on the side of the road getting our car towed away. My first thought was: “great add something else to the list of things on Sam’s shoulders right now—Starting a church, buying a house, and now fixing a car.” Then I started wondering: “How are we going to get home?”, “How are we going to get around next week?” I wanted to trust that God had something going on here but man was I totally stressing.
We ended up calling a friend from our old church who was willing to come out and get us, and then a family from the church plant offered to lend us their second car for the week. Things worked out.
The frustration is that there is some part of me that assumes now that I’m a church planter we should be the one giving out help, but not the ones needing help. As if when your in leadership you should always be independently able to care for yourself, but that idea is total contrary to the Biblical idea of dependance. We all are totally dependent on God, even if we don’t acknowledge it, and lets be honest we are also very often dependent on other people as well. From little things like having your hands full of groceries and someone opening a door for you, to the big things like your car breaking down and you needing someone to drive two hours to pick you, your wife and your screaming kid up—we need people.
Its ok to be dependent, In fact I think that we can’t help but be dependent, and Im realizing that it’s a pretty good leadership style to embrace, but one that requires you to swallow a lot of pride.