Ideas / Reading / Thinking / August 2, 2011

Feel This Way!

Last week I was talking with Adam Kellogg, a co-worker, (who blogs here) about marketing and producing Christian literature. Shocking, I know, since we work at a Christian publisher. Adam made the observation that “people like things that tell them ‘feel this way’.” In other words people like to have things laid out clearly for them, no gray area, no digging, no thinking. His observation is spot on.

It’s why romantic comedies are so successful. It’s also why Adam Sandler continues to make money banging out cheesy comedies. There is no subtlety, no obscurity, no layers to be peeled back. The message is right there: “Feel this way!”

For this same reason people flock to feel good books whether it be self-help or romance fiction. Christian fiction booms because people like having messages fed to them.

This reality is often am unhelpful one. It is part of a vicious cycle that goes like this: I don’t want to think critically or deeply, so I read (or view) shallowly, so I don’t learn how to think critically or deeply, so I am even less inclined to think critically or deeply, so I read shallowly . . . And so it goes.

I am not joining the hipster pursuit of ever-increasing obscurity. I am not asking that everyone becomes a philosopher or theologian or metaphysicist.  There is no inherent value in vagueness or depth.
But there is great value in searching for the truth and emotion a work holds, in having to search for it. Gravitating towards those works that spoon feed you feelings and ideas will keep you infantile. You will never learn to engage ideas, sort through complicated expressions of emotion, and unearth kernels of truth.
What is more, you will never learn to enjoy doing those things. To allow yourself to constantly be fed with an IV drip of feelings and values is boring and will atrophy you, even if you don’t yet realize it. To find and discover is exhilarating. It can be exhausting and frustrating, but there is an actual pay off.
Start by seeking works that require work. Put down your preachy Christian novel or Nicholas Sparks book and go exploring. Try something new, get some recommendations. Exploring is the first step to discovery.

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