Volume 7, Issue 3: Verbatim
Quotations on Entertainment
Various Saints and Hobgoblins
The sense of the ludicrous is clearly a rational affection. It seems peculiar
to human beings. The gambols of some animals clearly disclose a sense of fun
or sport, and even of sportive mischief. . . . The true sense of the ludicrous
is distinctly a human attribute; so clearly so that some psychologists have proposed,
and that not in jest, to define mankind as "the biped that laughs."
Since human nature has that weakness by which it cannot always concentrate on
grave and serious matters but demands other rest besides sleep, there must also
be provision made for certain relaxations from work and useful studies and a
certain recreation of the strength both of the spirit and of the body in play
If he had said simply that something which the educated receive from poetry can
reach the masses through stories of adventure, and almost in no other way, then
I think he would have been right. If so, nothing can be more disastrous than
the view that the cinema can and should replace popular written fiction. The
elements which it excludes are precisely those which give the untrained mind
its only access to the imaginative world. There is death in the camera.
To many, fantasy, this sub-creative art which plays strange tricks with the world
and all that is in it, combining nouns and redistributing adjectives, has seemed
suspect, if not illegitimate. To some it has seemed at least a childish folly,
a thing only for peoples or for persons in their youth. As for its legitimacy
I will say no more than to quote a brief passage from a letter I once wrote to
a man who described myth and fairy-story as 'lies'; though to do him justice he
was kind enough and confused enough to call fairy-story making 'Breathing a lie
'Dear Sir,' I said'Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons'twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made.
The man whose soul is "growing" takes more interest in spiritual things every year.
. . . The ways, and fashions, and amusements, and recreations of the world have
a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as downright
sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell.
He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections
and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes.
Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious
leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to
provide entertainment for the retarded saints. It is now common practice in most
evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum
of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. . . . One can only conclude
that God's professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting
with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.
All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that
is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides,
all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate
to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose?
The chief characteristic of humor is, that it is the sudden and unexpected recognition
of incongruity between ideas brought together. We see a large man walking in
a pompous and consequential way on the sleety path and next he lies sprawling
on the ground. The sudden incongruity of his dignity and his awkward fall is
supremely humorous. . . . As an instance we may cite the illustration of our
Saviour, the gnat and the camel. Not only is there vivid wit in the parallel
of the two animals to the two classes of sins, but a startling incongruity in
the image of the huge, sprawling beast going down the dainty throat of the Pharisee.
Over my years as a reader and writer I've found it almost impossible to hold anything
in memory unless it's framed by a story: certainly down in words, at least. .
. . Even if there isn't a story to encapsulate what we wish to retainwhich is,
I think, the way memory worksthere is always, in anything we're able to remember
the rest of our lives, a progression, a narrative thread or pattern, or a set
of steps leading from A to C. . . . It's for this reason, I believe, that the
most pungent and memorable portions of the Bible are cast as storiesAdam and
Eve, Moses and Pharaoh, David and Bathsheba, Ruth and Naomi, Balaam and his ass.
. . . However anybody feels about narrative, over and above the purposes we can
ascribe to the use of story in Scripture, story is the quintessential way in
which God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.
Television is a populist medium that not only circumvents all elites, cultural,
intellectual, and social, but also renders the print culture increasingly irrelevant.
In the West to this point, print has preserved society's past and values; for
better or for worse, values today are being most effectively transmitted within
the video culture. The cultural mantle has passed from the users of words to
the makers of images.
Christianity is sometimes criticized for being "word-centered" and thus insufficiently
oriented to visual images or to emotional subjectivity. This, however, cannot
be otherwise and is nothing to apologize for. The Word is at the essence of the
Christian faith. The faith of the ancient Hebrews was based on God's revelation
in language; the faith of their pagan neighbors was based on gods revealed in
graven images. This basic conceptual conflict between the priority of language
and the priority of images continues.
Gene Edward Veith
Total silence is rare, and what we today call "quiet" usually amounts to a little
less noise. Many people have never experienced silence. . . . Our households
and offices are filled with whirring, buzzing, murmuring, chattering, and whining
of the multiple contraptions that are supposed to make life easier. Their noise
comforts us in some curious way. In fact, we find complete silence shocking because
it leaves the impression that nothing is happening. . . . Think what it says
about the inward emptiness of our lives if we must always turn on the tape
player or radio to make sure something is happening around us.
Whatever it be that keeps the finer faculties of the mind awake, wonder alive,
and the interest above mere eating and drinking, money-making and money-saving;
whatever it be that gives gladness, or sorrow, or hopethis, be it violin, pencil,
pen . . . is simply a divine gift of holy influence for the salvation of that
being to whom it comes, for the lifting of him out of the mire and up on the
reductio ad absurdum of personal liberty. It is
ordinary men and women freed by money and social mobility to do anything they
want unencumbered by family pressure, community mores, social responsibility,
civic duty, or good sense. . . . Los Angeles is a site for Hollywood because,
if all the freedom and money go blooey, it's warm enough to sleep on the beach.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that
there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted
to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive of us information. Huxley
feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity
and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared
that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would
become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied
with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
. . . Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we
love will ruin us.
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) came across an English romance when he was at his
lowest ebb; he had made an all-out effort to win an academic prize, and had won
it, but then suffered a breakdown. . . . Broken, barely able to read, Kuyper
picked up The Heir of Redclyffe, a novel that doesn't appear to be included
in the canon. . . . Kuyper was alone when he finished the book, and later wrote,
"What I lived through in my soul in that moment I fully understood only later,
yet from that hour, after that moment, I scorned what I formerly esteemed, and
I sought what I once dared to despise." The drama of that novel, rawly romantic
as it might have been, was used to draw Kuyper over the threshold into conversion.
The right book at the right time has that potential.
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