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With Blinders On

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Eating Chicken Nuggets at the Buffet

A little more than a year ago, my friend (and one of my favorite pastors — easily in my top five favorite pastors/future pastors) preached a sermon on the iPod-ization of our culture. Her argument was that, years ago, if you wanted to listen to music, you most often listened to the radio. Tapes, and later CDs, were a thing, of course, but more often than not, you were stuck with the variety of songs that were decided upon by somebody else. It was possible to hone your experience by choosing one station over another, or by listening to the morning show versus the afternoon DJ with terrible taste in music, but like it or not, you were going to end up listening to some songs that were not on your list of favorites.

In 2013, things are a little different. If, every time I sat down to listen to music, I wanted to listen to the song One Week by the Barenaked Ladies, I could. I could literally listen to that song, and only that song, for the rest of my life. This is what Gayle called iPod-ization.  We have our iPods (or Galaxy Players or Sansa Fuzes or whatever) at the ready, just waiting for our chance to immerse ourselves in something familiar, to the exclusion of something new and different.

Not that I’m speaking out against the familiar.  The familiar is pleasant and comforting, and I would argue that those are important things that we need in our lives.  If absolutely every moment was something new and different, we’d never have a chance to make any meaning, to get anything done.  We need “something nice to come home to.”

All that being said, it can go too far.  A few entries ago, I wrote about what I called a “buffet for the mind” — that our modern age of technology and connectedness represents a huge opportunity for the creation of new ideas and disciplines.

Have you ever gone to an Asian buffet with someone who has small children?  Or maybe you have small children of your own.  Or maybe you don’t like Asian food, but you were with a group of friends and you were outvoted.  Almost every Asian buffet at which I’ve eaten has had one small are that seems specifically designed to cater to small children and other picky eaters.  At one end of a smorgasbord of lo mein, sesame chicken, and other such delights, you have a table devoted to pizza, french fries, and hot dogs.

I don’t spend much time at buffets anymore.  Despite my weight loss, the healthiness of my relationship with food remains somewhat tenuous, and while my personal slope is probably not as slippery as I feel that it is, I tend to err on the side of caution.  But one of the attitudes I had to change in myself was to stop regarding buffets as an “all you can eat” situation and start regarding them as an “as much variety as you want” opportunity.  Which, I think, is the true beauty of a buffet (of the mind or otherwise).

I’m not saying that eating a slice of pepperoni pizza at an Asian buffet is wrong. In fact the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that both approaches are valid, and that moderation is the real truth (big surprise).  Sometimes you don’t want to be locked down to just lo mein OR fried rice for an entire meal.  That’s a wonderful thing, and an Asian buffet is just the place to exercise your freedom.  And you know what else?  Sometimes you just want a big ass plate of chicken nuggets.  And that’s ok, too, even if you’re at China Buffet.

I for one can say that I’m guilty of leaning too far in the direction of the iPod-ized chicken nuggets (uh-oh, the walls between my metaphors are breaking down!) More often than not, I listen to one of my trusty playlists on the way to work, or to one of my favorite podcasts.  I have had hundreds of books, TV shows, and movies recommended to me that I may or may not ever get to checking out.

And maybe I’d have a good excuse for focusing so much on the familiar, if I were in the 5 and a half billion people who don’t have access to an internet connection.  Or if there were no radio stations around here, or if I didn’t live in an area with a good library system, or subscribe to Netflix, Audible, and Google Music, or… you get the idea.  That power: the power of on-demand enjoyment, is very, very alluring.  It’s something I need to learn to resist better.

I’ve had an idea rolling around my head for a few years.  It’s called the “Not Really My Thing” Book Club.  It’s like any other book club, except the people in it need to have vastly different tastes in books.  They take turns choosing titles, discuss the book week after week, blah blah blah.  It’s an ideal situation for me, because I need other people to hold me accountable, or else I end up just scooping french fries onto my plate.  Ok, that’s a bad example.  I love lo mein.  But you get the idea.

Anybody want to join the Official Burning River Writing Not Really My Thing Book Club?  (The name is a little clumsy…)  Well, whether you do or you don’t, I think most of us could stand to branch out a little more.  I know I could.

As always, thank you for reading.  More to follow.

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