This weekend, I took my kids to a nearby park and while we were playing I met a little Russian girl named Sasha who was there with her grandmother. The grandmother was a native of Russia and didn’t speak much English, but we had a fun little conversation. When I asked her if she’d seen the new Dostoevsky paintings in the Moscow subway, and her face lit up with excitment. Oh yes, she said, the paintings are beautiful!
All Russians, it seems, take great pride their beloved Dostoevsky.
In Living Color
Later that night, when a Seinfeld re-run came on TV, I thought about how my kids probably won’t think Jerry and company are very fun to watch. George, Kramer, and Elaine were the comedy gold of my high school and college years, but my kids will probably see them in the same way that I saw Andy Griffith and Barney Fife when I was growing up.
There are certainly major cultural and stylistic differences between Jerry and Andy, but one of the things that made Andy unwatchable to me as a kid was the technological difference – black and white vs. color. I found those old black and white shows to be silly and quaint, no matter how serious the material was. I heard Charlie Chaplain made powerful Anti-Nazi movies, but who wants to watch movies without sound? Not me.
A New Dimension
In the coming decade, it seems that we might be in for another major shift in home entertainment. Of course, I’m referring to 3D television which will likely see a major push this holiday season.
At this point, 3D television seems to me to be just a fad that money hungry TV manufactures and producers want to push on us so that they can make a few more dollars. But I’m guessing that some 1960s families probably felt the same way about color TV.
If 3D television does take off, its importance won’t just be commercial however because it will become primary entertainment medium of my kids’ childhood. They won’t know a world without 3D TV, just as I didn’t know the world of black and white TV or silent films. For them, today’s 2D shows will just be those quaint, flat shows from a long time ago, unwatchable except as a fun way to see the silly stuff mom and dad used to watch.
Nothing in Common
This means that the shows my kids will watch – and the jokes, characters, and stories that they to which they refer – will be completely different than what I grew up with. History has shone that because television as a medium is always changing, the stories told on it can’t be shared across generations.
Russians will always have Dostoevsky in whom they all share some kind of connection, but we techno-Westerners don’t have a shared history or a common anchor point, and this is precisely because we don’t have a shared story telling medium. Both our values and our mediums have been changing every few decades for the past century, and there are no signs of it stabilizing any time soon.
Dropping an Anchor
To me, this makes sharing the stories in the Scriptures my children and teaching them the larger narrative of God and his people told throughout the entire Bible all the more important. Without this firm foundation, we won’t have a common source of metaphors and truth from which to draw and encourage one another. It also means that I’ll need to make an effort to learn the medium of their youth (3D TV) in order to understand their culture and find points of connection to God’s story.
So this fall when you see ads claiming that 3D TV will change everything – believe them. They will.
But don’t freak out, just let it be an encouragement to immerse you and your family in something doesn’t change.