The Cardus Daily

The Challenge to Triviality

Ray Sawatsky  |  October 5, 2012  |  Arts, Cultural Renewal, Culture, Film

Recently—late, I know—I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. Sure, it was a wonderfully entertaining and a frivolous way to spend a couple of hours of my life . . . but this is not a movie review. This film has been analyzed to death everywhere, including in Comment and in this space. What occupied me watching it, and what occupies me now, is old stories.

The Dark Knight Rises plot was a hybrid of Robin Hood, the Bolshevik Revolution, a Twilight Zone episode, and some biblical allegory. But did anybody notice connections? The plot themes predictably explored the nature of wealth, hegemony, power, and what happens when the structures of society break down into anarchy. And of course, the blurry line of stealing from the rich (or in modern sensibilities, the emasculation of the wealthy) is presented as a radical solution to complex problems.

Yet Nolan’s discussion was thin, his conversation shallow. He entertained, but did he explore? This is what occupies me: on days that stubbornly refuse to surpass 24 hours, our increasing consumption of trivial culture has allowed us to forget the stories that ground us.

Historians bemoan that today’s citizens don’t know even the foundational stories of our histories. Indeed, most Canadians couldn’t identify the face on the soon to be forgotten Canadian five dollar bill (Sir Wilfred Laurier), much less be able to explain his importance in Canadian history. Perhaps I just sound like that crotchety old man idolizing the good old days, but I don’t want to accept the triumph of triviality in our culture.

And it’s not only cultural stories being bottomed out. Human stories, the stories of our history and our faith, are being forgotten. When Cardus asks what 2,000 years of Christian thought have to offer modern society, we are asking that question in a context of “cultural amnesia”—what sociologists call a “post-Christian age.” The long evolution of Christian cultural understanding, alongside the history of western society, and more recently, our Canadian and American histories, is now long forgotten.

However, it does not have to be this way. This is a challenge to those of us who yet remember the stories: it is up to us to stand in the face of this tide of triviality. Who is us? We are the pastors and academics, the teachers (especially high school teachers), professors, artists, musicians, scientists, builders, and salesmen who contribute to our cultural mosaic. This is about our foundation. This is about telling important stories with passion and purpose, and connecting them to the big questions about our humanity.

This, then, is a call to action! This a call to overcome our amnesia and emerge with purpose to engage, learn, teach, and share the narrative of our story. For without our knowledge of foundational stories, we and those who learn from us are condemned to triviality.



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