After three days, the wind has stopped. I go outside to have a look, a smell. A spider, light brown, almost translucent, hangs down above my head, from a beam on the roof, then goes back up. Some dogs bark, the wind begins to stir the slightest bit, and the big dipper shines dull above, made so by the rising moon to the east. It is likely the oldest of recognized constellations I read today.
Today was the day of prayer. I prayed my usual amount, not making this particularly a day of prayer for me. I suppose I should feel a measure of guilt about this. I don’t. It has the feel of a Hallmark holiday for me, though anything which sparks prayer is worthwhile.
I speak highly of prayer not because it is a gift, or a well developed habit. It is a discipline, and yet I realize it to be the key aspect of this present Christian life. It is the mark of holiness, the difference between the spiritual and not-so-much. This, however, is only true in the case of those who pray as they ought, not for spiritual points from others.
No, prayer was not my main focus today. It was a worthwhile day, forging ahead, shaking off frustrations, pushing forward.
And tonight, Friends, the sitcom, had its final episode. It may seem odd to write about Friends here, but it was in many ways an interesting part of my spiritual life these last ten years. I was a freshman in college when it came on the air, and I didn’t watch the first season because I didn’t have, or have access to, a tv. That was the year in which I sought to will my way into spiritual maturity, to struggle through confusion and difficulty by way of pure effort, spiritual fortitude.
I got an ulcer that year, or something close to it at least. And I lost thirty pounds. That is a different story.
Friends was a funny show, there is no doubt about it. Especially those early seasons (my friends had a tv my sophomore year — spliced the cable from the dorm director’s apartment… that too is a different story), it had excellent writing, always good for a laugh.
Only one problem. The show was terribly immoral. Some shows showed more, spoke worse, that is true. This had an immoral philosophy behind it, especially in its sexual ethic. However, that being said, it also was a show about community, the ups and downs, the commitments and betrayals, so there was in fact a very strong core morality which I have only rarely found in a church setting. Church communities choose their canon, focusing on some moral issues, forgetting the deeper issues, so those who are labeled immoral by churches are oftentimes no more immoral than the churches themselves, only it is more the vices of the barroom which the churches rail against. Churches have different issues, certainly no less unrighteous. Though not all, to be sure, not all, some walk as right as possible. I haven’t been a part of one of those in a while myself.
This also isn’t my point, though I may have to admit I have several points by the end of this. My point is that Friends is one of those shows in which as I grew in my own spiritual awareness I found I had less enjoyment in watching. The philosophy of life was divergent from my own goal, I suppose. Or, maybe even more, the jokes and comments which increasingly became part of the basis of the show’s humor were increasingly distasteful. Yet I continued to watch, for it made me laugh.
Tertullian has a great little writing called On the Shows in which he challenges the idea that Christians should watch the plays and entertainments which were popular in the Roman Empire during his time. He admits the allure, saying however that there is a higher cause to have our concern, and we should not endure that which mocks all which Christ died for.
This is true. Whether outright or implicitly much of modern entertainment mocks the foundations of Christ’s life and work. But, it makes us laugh, or cry, or scared, so we watch. I always wrestled with watching Friends, not sure I could admit I liked it, because I didn’t know if I should like it. I chose to react to this not by cutting off Friends, but rather by not including additional shows in my television pantheon which offended the same way. I never watch Will and Grace for that reason, even though it too is often funny.
The cultural or spiritual snobs will of course say a person should never watch TV. I think having access to good stories, and worthwhile entertainment is a fine thing myself. We have no bards or poets around anymore to sing and tell tales of adventure or folly. So I have the TV, or movies to fill that innate void in the human heart which yearns for stories outside one’s one existence.
Friends now is gone, and with it, if I may add my entertainment commentary, is the end of the era of great sitcoms. TV has changed in the last ten years, we have the internet and reality television. Rather than developing the next great draw, NBC has Donald Trump exposing himself to the world. So, the worry lessons, because without the choice humor forces on me, I can more easily turn off the television.
That was always the trick. Friends made me laugh, and for a good number of those years I desperately needed to laugh, to find humor in life, to be restored if even through a momentary escape into whimsy.
I think that Church should have this role, though churches now have twisted the meaning of community to mean some sort of emaciated spirituality which everyone is supposed to yearn for, but no one really does, which makes everyone but the pastors feel guilty, while the pastors blame the people for not giving their ministries fulfillment.
So, it is in many ways an end of a particular era, one which I cannot say I am sad to leave, but it is a passing which causes me to reflect.
I think I’ll miss the show, despite myself. It’s hard to find a laugh these days. I’ll have to spend a while looking elsewhere… though with the lack I have noticed my own humor becoming sallow. That also is another story.