Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Duly Noted

I'm reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death for my Center for Faith and Culture research. His primary concern in the book is the way that medium profoundly impacts content; he focuses on public discourse and whether or not the television is the proper medium for that. My research will apply the same kind of considerations to church music-- whether or not the the form and style of the music appropriately matches its message. Here are some jewels from reading the first few chapters:

In every tool we create, an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself” (14).

“We do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities, but by what it claims as significant” (16). 

In chapter 3, Postman discusses the intellectual climate of early America. Here are some facts that amazed me:
"No literary aristocracy emerged in Colonial America. Reading was not regarded as an elitist activity, and printed matter was spread evenly among all kinds of people. . . By 1772, Jacob Duche could write: 'The poorest labourer upon the shore of the Delaware thinks himself entitled to deliver his sentiment in matters of religion or politics with as much freedom as the gentleman or scholar. . . . Such is the prevailing taste for books of every kind, that almost every man is a reader" (34). 

On the Lyceum Movement, in which lecture halls were set up for adult education, featuring leading intellectuals, writers and humorists: 
"Alfred Bunn, an Englishman on an extensive tour through America, reported in 1853 that 'practically every village had its lecture hall.' He added: 'it is a matter of wonderment. . . to witness the youthful workmen, the over-tired artisan, the worn-out factory girl. . . rushing. . . after the toil of the day is over, into the hot atmosphere of a crowded lecture hall' " (40). 

In chapter 4, he discusses the Lincoln/Douglas debates. The crowds willingly listened to 7 hours of debate at points! This statement by Douglas, responding to lengthy applause,  especially demonstrates the climate of the time:
"' My friends. . . silence will be more acceptable to me in the discussion of these questions than applause. I desire to address myself to your judgment, your understanding, and your consciences, and not to your passions or your enthusiasms.' " (45)

When you think about that kind of intellectual climate, a 'constitutional republic' of citizens voting responsibly and intelligently would make much more sense. 

No comments:

Post a Comment