Life’s just a downer, right?
Well, maybe not totally, but it sure can feel that way—even here in the good old U.S. of A. A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal reported just how pessimistic and deeply divided we Americans are feeling these days.
Our country is roiling for a lot of reasons. Hurricanes are battering the coasts. Forest fires are sweeping over our forests. We’ve got angry mobs of different stripes and persuasions shaking their fists in the streets, and our police forces seem hesitant to get involved. The news media is raging 24/7. Healthcare costs are soaring to the level of a home mortgage. Our politicians seem feckless. And there are murderous religious radicals and madmen with big nuclear sticks threatening destruction from around the globe.
It’s enough to make you want to bury your head. And that’s what many of us tend to do.
Let’s face it, in our internet-connected, smooth-streaming American world, it’s really, really easy to drown out the news and noise, and to lose yourself in some kind of entertaining distraction. It’s like applying a soothing balm of amusement when you’re feeling battered and bruised, if you will. Not only do those YouTube clips, sports events, TV shows, movies and media whatnots offer a quick fanciful escape, they can also help us ease our knotted life-isn’t-fair tensions.
I went to a film recently, for example, and the three pre-movie trailers were all pretty much the same movie with the same cathartic intention. In the first, Bruce Willis was playing an average old American guy from the street who was taking up arms against injustice. The second starred Jackie Chan as an average old Chinese guy doing the same. And the third film featured Dylan O’Brien as an average young guy in the streets who … well you get the picture.
Maybe that’s even why superhero flicks have been so incredibly appealing. After all, in those pics, the goodies get the glory and the baddies get the boot. By my count, we’ve seen 10 such movies released in just the last 16 months: Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. And that’s not even counting the Power Rangers, Transformers and other sundry comic booky flicks scattered in there, too.
However, our predilection for diving deep into entertainment (and let’s not forget videogames and social media on that lose-yourself list) to avoid the angst of the real world does have its drawbacks. Fantasy escape certainly has an abundant appeal, but just how much of that immersion is too much?
That’s a tough one to answer, isn’t it?
I know I don’t intend to wean myself totally from entertainment anytime soon. (That would put me out of a job, for one thing.) On the other hand, when it comes to my personal entertainment consumption, I’ve got to remember that I have a bigger purpose in life than simply being entertained. As a Christian, a dad, a husband, a citizen, I’ve got responsibilities I need to stay, ahem, plugged into. There are day-to-day goals I still need to reach for.
Christian author J.R. Miller once said: “Amusement is not an end, but a means. It is not life’s object, but a help along the way. It is not the goal, but the cool bower, or the bubbling spring on the stiff, steep mountain-side.”
I also heard a pastor once say that “we are accountable to God for every minute and every hour of our lives.”
As daunting as that last statement may sound, a combination of those two perspectives helps give you a measuring stick of sorts. A way of figuring out where our own best amusement balance lies when life keeps battering us with all its, uh, dastardly downers.