The setting is quite riveting: out of the embers of a post-apocalyptic world in which clear social stratifications and tremendous unease for folks is the norm, rises an unlikely heroine. She fights to the death against a select group while the country is forced to watch. Elimination and voyeurism are two of the more uncivilized human behaviors expressed. The Hunger Games, first in novel form and now in film, have garnered much attention, setting box-office records, left and right. Yet this is nothing new.
If we travel back a couple of thousand years, history reveals a similar picture during the height of the Roman Empire. For all of the “greatness” we recall, it too was rather dystopian; war was a constant threat, people were afraid and one of the great spectacles of all occurred at the Roman Colosseum. You may recall that this is where gladiators and animals fought each other, often to the death. And many citizens found this too, to be riveting entertainment.
Were we at the depths of depravity or the height of civilization in the first century? What about today? Alongside the aforementioned blockbuster, recent popular films and media include World War Z, Pacific Rim, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and a host of others (the seemingly endless fascination with vampire tales). Psychologists note that much of what we see in literature, program or film is a reflection of the fears and anxieties of our broader culture. In some form or another, we have seen this from generation to generation.
Additionally, more technological “advancements” have revealed themselves in the last five years than in the last fifty combined, promising to simplify our lives and connecting us in ways previously unimaginable. The word “unimaginable” may be most poignant, as people may have imagined new devices and all sorts of things, but they may not have thought through all of the ramifications of such. I can almost assure you they haven’t. I am a beneficiary of many of these fine technological introductions, but I am also strained by the increasingly loud and omnipresent “white noise” that accompanies these fine devices. While advances in science and technology may lull people into believing that we, as human beings, are in control of everything, we are not.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the reminders of our commercialized life appeared more loud and crass than ever. Black Friday, followed by Cyber-Monday was enough to send me over the edge, softened only by the respite of Giving Tuesday.
So, dear friends, as we are bombarded by life, what are we to do? How do we manage the white noise in our lives? What are we doing to ensure we do not become overwhelmed by “stuff;” and violence, cruelty, and the hardness of life, especially when it appears to be in our faces all of the time?
One way is to be intentional about placing things in perspective.
As our children and you- our families- strive to balance the pressures of expectations from school and home, navigating the shifting shoals of family dynamics and peer relationships, and harboring natural anxieties about what the future holds, our community intentionally takes time out to consider what is most important in our lives.
Advent began this week, and as I listened to Father Mel’s Homily on Monday, I was lovingly reminded of this fact: that we are about to begin anew. Advent calls us to prepare for the arrival of a New Presence in our lives. Each day, our community walks to a Sanctuary to give thanks, to share in joyful contributions, to pray for the welfare of others, to ponder the substance of His presence in our lives.
On Monday, I invite you to join me for our annual celebration of Advent Lessons and Carols. We will gather to share readings and to sing, to give glory to God for the gifts he has given us. We need take to heart that He came into this world most humbly; and that part of beginning anew means to always consider what it means to treat others as we would be treated. And while we engage in this process of prayer and reflection daily, I believe it is especially important during this time of year- to seek light in the face of darkness.
We are not a perfect community, but we are a community that takes time to honor our past, make peace with the present and hope- and have faith – for a brighter future.