Thursday, May 11, 2006

Why Do We Do the Things We Do

We rented a movie the other night - "The Family Stone" Actually my two daughters and step daughter rented it. It's rated PG-13, so most people would not find it offensive.

I did, of course. I'm a prude. I'm old fashioned. The review on the above link doesn't sound bad at all - "love" ties up all the loose ends for the dysfunctional family Stone.

I didn't watch it all the way through. I rebelled. Here's the problem I had with it. It focused on a dysfunctional family - two sexually disoriented men, a couple of selfish egotists, and a couple of other generally confused people. With a personality deficit disorder prevalent in most of the characters throughout the movie, any coming together in the name of "love" at the end must certainly be a fleeting event. The point is that the movie focused on really screwed up people. Maybe that makes those of us who feel similarly depraved feel better about ourselves - as in stupidity loves company - or is that misery loves company.

Why do people spend so much time soaking up violence, bad behavior, and downright destructive action and attitudes in our "entertainment?" Aren't there enough real life problems and counterproductive influences in life without deliberately immersing ourselves in it? It's not like we have to endure it because we have no choice. We actually pay for and spend hours of our valuable time offering up ourselves to have this crap pumped into our brains.

The same weirdness applies to some of the addictive habits we have. Smoking, for example. The facts are clear. Smoking gives people lung cancer. It stinks on people. It gives them yellow teeth. It's addictive. My brother and mom died from diseases caused by smoking. Yet "intelligent" people still smoke. Why? Do they have a death wish? Do they turn off parts of their brain that house most of their intelligence when they decide to light up? What causes them to "feel good" about smoking? And alcohol abuse and drug use - that's a whole different dimension.

If I dare suggest smoking is not good for them and encourage them to quit, of course they will point out that I eat too many brownies and oreos. Ooops. They got me there. Can't argue with reason. Although I do maintain the secret little thought that my habit is neither as anal or as harmful as smoking.

We don't realize how true the digital adage "Garbage in - garbage out" really is in all that we expose ourselves to.

Dysfunctional behaviors, dysfunctional families, and dysfunctional entertainment have become the norm. I am trying to be an oddity. My goal is to be labeled "odd" in the eyes of the dysfunctional of the world. I occasionally hear comments that convince me that I am succeeding. Yesss!

I have experienced and created my share of dysfunction during periods of my life, and frankly, I'm rather sick and tired of it.

It is difficult to understand the processes that lead up to the actual point that inappropriate decisions are made. But I will speculate - and I believe this is true - that all of the influences in our life, from the time we are little children, through the hundreds of hours of interacting with other people (most of whom we choose to interact with), the hundreds of hours we expose ourselves to various forms of entertainment (all of which we choose to expose ourselves to), and the hundreds of hours that we direct our minds to unproductive or destructively inappropriate thoughts (despite the fact that we can control these thoughts) - all of these things together form the path that we take. We have control over all these things that influence, consciously or not, the decisions we make. We can control how we react to our hormones. We can separate ourselves from destructive or negative people. Do we take advantage of the control that we do have to "do the right thing?" Sadly, much of the time we do not.

There is no greater truth than this verse from the Bible:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8

Selfishness is not pure or lovely. Destructive habits are not virtuous. Spending our time being entertained by dysfunctional lifestyles is not of good report. There is no virtue in these things.

The truth in this Scripture can help us avoid selfish, perverse, degenerate, painful and destructive actions and attitudes. We cannot change the past. We have the ability to focus on the good and virtuous with each decision we make from this moment forward. Long live my disdain for The Color Purple and The Family Stone - despite the fact that our society says they are fine for 13 year olds!

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