The Truman Show stars Jim Carry as an insurance salesman whose life since birth is actually an elaborate TV show watched by millions. NY Times writer David Brooks might have had this movie in mind when he wrote Social Animals. He takes the latest developments in psychology, human development, anthropology and neuroscience and weaves them together in the life of fictional characters Harold and Erica in much the same way as Jim carry is both shaped and watched in The Truman Show.
Brooks particularly delves into the area of the unconscious mind (non-cognitive skills, emotions, etc.) and the power it holds over life and its ability to determine thought processes and outcomes. Growing up in a fundamentalist church, I was constantly warned about the power that ‘secular music’ and ‘Hollywood movies’ had over my mind. As an impressionable youth wanting to follow Jesus, that meant rejecting much of popular culture. I didn’t watch ‘R’ movies; in fact, I didn’t think a Christian could watch rated ‘R’ movies. I tried my best to only listen to Christian music. I remember many burning sessions of ‘secular music.’ I remember one instance of even throwing my brother’s secular CD’s out the window so he couldn’t listen to them. I thought Christ wanted us to have a child like faith, and since we wouldn’t let a child listen or watch those things than we shouldn’t either. I was doing my best to protect the conscious and unconsciousness aspects of my life, all the while fostering a sense of spiritual arrogance that I couldn’t recognize. Despite my best efforts, my subconscious was negatively affected. In some ways, I became what I despised.
As typically the case for a fundamentalist who realizes that God isn’t a fundamentalist, I ran to the other side of the spectrum. I didn’t like the categories of ‘secular’ and ‘sacred.’ I thought you could listen or watch anything, and it wouldn’t affect one’s soul and/or unconscious. There was a great sense of ‘freedom’ for a while, but eventually even that ‘freedom’ began to have consequences. I’ve found that it’s difficult to contemplate on things of God while watching the latest sexual romp on Game of Thrones.
As an adult, I now see the error of being to far on either side of the spectrum and that both sides can affect the unconscious self. There is something to be said for not filling one’s mind and subconscious with things that are blatantly anti-Gospel. But, I also don’t think that God’s truth is limited to ‘Christian things” like worship music or some good theology book. As my kids grow older I imagine that helping them find a balance will be a challenge as well, I don’t want them to swing on the pendulum like I did. At the moment it’s easy because they are 4 and 5 years old. But as they get older I imagine it will be more of a challenge to teach them how to discern what movies to watch and music to listen to.
Brooks argues, that the unconscious affects our life. I agree with him. So, how do you take care of our unconscious self and not completely shun the world? What principals guide you?