The Water We Swim In


lollipop.JPGCulture, it’s said, is like an ocean. And we are the fish swimming there. For the most part, we’re not really aware of the water around us. It’s just there … always there. It’s where we swim and live.

That comparison is helpful, I think, because it reminds us that our culture—that vast vortex of ideas and images and values and habits and preferences and beliefs—swirls constantly around us, whether we’re aware of it or not. And it’s constantly transmitting a steady stream of information.

Even if we’re trying to pay attention and think critically about the metaphorical water we’re swimming it—which is one of the things we’re trying to do here at Plugged In—it can be challenging to recognize where and how our culture’s values seep in and begin to influence the way I see the world.

When it comes to my children, however, culture’s influence is much more apparent. Because my kiddos are so young—Henry’s nearly 4 and my daughter, Annabeth, isn’t quite 2—it’s pretty easy to spot when something new turns up.

Like, say, a song about lollipops.

A couple days ago, my wife came back from a baby shower with a bunch of baby-themed lollipops. Henry, of course, wanted one. And we eventually relented to his pleas.

After plopping the sugary confection in his little mouth, Henry did something that caught me utterly off guard: He started singing the song “Lollipop”: “Lollipop, lollipop/Oh lolli lolli lolli/Lollipop!” As the lyrics tumbled out of his sucker-filled mouth, he danced delightedly through the kitchen, as happy, it seemed, to be singing this silly song as he was about the candy itself.

Here’s the thing: I have no idea where he heard this song. Usually when some new cultural influence pops up, I can identify its origin. But I was stumped on this one. All I know is that my child, who’s not yet 4, knows the lyrics to a song first made famous by the Cordettes waaaaayyyyy back in 1958—48 years before Henry was born.

To me it was a breathtaking illustration of how cultural influence works. This song has been floating around in the cultural current for 52 years now. And now that particular current has swept by my son—somehow, without me knowing it—as he happily swims about in his little world.

Thankfully, this example of culture’s influence on my family isn’t one that I need to spend too much time brooding about. But it is a sobering reminder that the oceanic currents of culture really are swirling all around us, whether we’re aware of them or not. And my little “fishies”—as well as me, a bigger, older, and balder “fishie”—swim in that water every day.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  McMurreysGirl:

It's kind of like how my parents were super careful about what we were exposed to (and though we did watch some things that weren't necessarily for kids - Braveheart, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, the Star Trek series, and etc, my parents taught us to look immediately away even when people kissed), and worked to make sure my sister and I felt good about who we were and what we looked like, I still, unbeknown to my parents, wound up with a couple of fashion magazines when I was 12 that made me feel fat and ugly (even though I was thin and a cute little girl, albeit with huge glasses) and that prompted an eating disorder that lasted for years.

Be careful with your little girl, Adam. She's not just going to grow up comparing herself to airbrushed photos and altered videos - she's going to be dealing with avatars as well. And then there are the boys, who are inundated with these fake images of women as well.

It must be scary to be a parent.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kimana517:

My guess is he learned it from a recent Dell computer commercial that plays it in the background.