I have been pondering engrossment this week.

We are all engrossed…

In something.

I was chatting with my friend Jordan a couple of days ago, and we were persuaded that it is best to be engrossed with the scandalous and mystical tales of God’s Word. To feel like you MUST imaginatively inhabit God’s active and living Word everyday (even multiple times a day) or else you will die! That kind of insatiable appetite for, and enthrallment of, God’s Word is life to the fullest!

Flowing from that intense craving for special revelation is our resolved engrossment in the shrewd, spirited, and stout implementation of Christ’s enigmatic value system. Namely – the excellent and enthusiastic (lowly and humiliating) act(s) of serving others! Serving others like Jesus (see Philippians 2:1-8). Serving with savage and severe shrewdness (see Luke 16:8-9; and the story of Joseph, son of Jacob/יִשְׂרָאֵל). Robustly serving like Phil Connors, or Alexander Ilyich Rostov, or Willy Wonka, or Mary Poppins, or The Little Pilot (#Isle of Dogs), or Chief (#Isle of Dogs).

AND… along with our engrossment in special revelation and enigmatic service there ought to be a childlike, incessantly curious, commitment to being OUTSIDE! We must hike mountains, play in rivers, climb trees, walk whenever possible, clamber through woods, body surf waves, and frolic in snow, and sand, and sunshine! These activities are all over the Gospel narratives (hiding in plain sight). When the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, He was always up on mountains, walking along beaches, strolling between villages, hanging out at the docks, chatting in people’s houses, feasting in meadows, sleeping in gardens, and conducting business in rivers.


As I was pondering engrossment this past week, I came across the quotes below (which have connections and points of overlap with this inescapable them of engrossment)…

“You’ll never regret a decision more than the one you make out of fear. Fear tells you to make your life small. Fear tells you to think small. Fear tells you to be small-hearted. Fear seeks to preserve itself, and the bigger you let your life and perspective and heart get, the less air you give fear to survive.”

– Jeff Zentner “In The Wild Light”

In Aldous Huxley’s vision (in a Brave New World), no Orwellian Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As Huxley saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

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 us of 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 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. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that trivial desires will ruin us.

Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

“In America, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and it is certainly useful to have a few when a pollster shows up. But these are opinions of a quite different roder from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century opinions. It is probably more accurate to call them emotions rather than opinions, which would account for the fact that they change from week to week, as the pollsters tell us. What is happening here is that television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. I am using this world almost in the precise sense in which it is used by spies in the CIA or KGB. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information–misplace, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information–information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing. In saying this, I do not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans of a coherent, contextual understanding of their world. I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

“Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us . . . But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements?”

Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

“The clearest way to see through a culture is to attend to its tools for conversation.”

Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”