We Have Lost the Plot

Stories matter.  Stories are the way we pass on our culture’s values, traditions, expectations, and wisdom.  Over the course of history, whether it be around a fire or in front of a television, people gathered to share common experiences.  Be it an action movie or a song, the pattern of storytelling provided a framework for how we communicate and share.

As a child I loved stories.  It started with things like storybooks with my parents, Sesame street vignettes between Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and movies like E.T.  As a teen I loved epic action movies, “Zelda” type video games, and longer novels like The Lord of the Rings.  My favourite songs have always been those that told a story.  As a kid, I still remember singing along to “Wasn’t That a Party” by the Irish Rovers.  As a young adult, I loved Tragically Hip’s storytelling lyrics in songs like “38 Years Old”.   These were the types of story that shaped me as a person and allowed me to connect to the narrative of our culture.

I am experiencing an increasing sense of uneasiness when I observe the decline of the story and the increase of “randomness” in modern entertainment.  While stories still exist, there seems to be an increase in short bursts of random entertainment.  Youtube is a perfect example.  I have seen kids sit in front of a screen and watch everything from “Closet tours” to “Fail Videos” to “AGT Auditions”.  None of the content has a plot, a moral, or a point other than to entertain.  Modern video games follow the same pattern.  While story-driven adventures still exist, the random “Battle Royale” format of games like Fortnite is far more popular.   Whether it be viewing, playing, or consuming, we seem to have reached peak “instant gratification.”

Why does this matter to me?  I think the problem with our society most of all isn’t economic inequality, environmental degradation, or gender issues.  The problem with our society is that we’ve lost the plot.  We no longer share a common narrative.  The story of our founding has been dismissed as racist, unjust and cruel.  Our current times are riddled with accusations of racial and gender biases.  Our systems of government and even our church have lost their moral authority.  When I was growing up in the 80’s things were getting better.  Now things feel decidedly like they are getting worse.

My 10-year-old son asked me a question this morning, “Dad, why would anyone want to be a communist?”  I told him that when people lose hope, they turn the promise of something better, even if they don’t really know or understand that thing.  When they don’t have faith, they place their hope in man.  Man cannot be relied upon, so communism always fails to live up to its promise to elevate the dignity of people.

We need to regain our sense of story.  We need a common narrative that unites rather than one that divides.  Whether the world will accept or admit it, that story is a Judeo-Christian one.  The plot of creation, fall, and redemption is the heart of all of those stories that hold us together.  As Christians and as parents we need to make sure we immerse our family in that sense of the Christian story.  Things may be bad as the result of our sinfulness, but Christ forgives and redeems, and there is hope for a better future.

And THAT is why I am watching It’s a Wonderful Life at least 4 times this season!

Thanks for reading!