Few things make me laugh like watching Leno do his famous Jaywalking bit.
You know the drill. He peruses the streets and asks ordinary folks questions about basic facts. Facts about politics, current events and history; facts about people and places who make our world go ’round. Facts you’d think most educated Americans would know a little something about until it becomes painfully obvious that entire segments of our population . . . don’t.
Each week’s questions are held together by a theme. Last week’s theme, Reality v. Reality TV, had me in tears.
Some of the reality questions: Who was the second president of the United States? Name the faces on Mt. Rushmore. Who’s the president on the $20 bill? Name three explorers that had something to do with America. Where did the Pilgrims land? How many Supreme Court Justices are there?
All questions to which the interviewees had no answers.
Then came the Reality TV questions: Name three Kardashians. Name four members of the Jersey Shore. Which judge is staying on American idol? How many children do John and Kate have? What socialite was arrested for possession of cocaine in her car?
Want to guess the outcome? Yep, you know it. Those answers — the ones to the really important questions — were rattled off without so much as a second breath. If they weren’t, it wouldn’t have been so funny. And alarming. And sadly, pretty unsurprising.
I started this post set out to lament this cultural phenomenon, how obssessed people seem to be with all things celebrity (or as the reality quiz pointed out, all things borderline trashy) while knowing little about stuff that actually matters. An idea that was reinforced yesterday when my spin instructor read the “news” off his iphone: “Lindsey Lohan to host SNL . . .” I was even going to impress you by throwing out this statistic: The average American household watches 35.5 hours/week, a new all-time high that doesn’t include any other screen time. (See, I still tried.) But once I started tapping the keys, I realized that wasn’t really what was bothering me. It was something deeper.
It’s easy to point the finger at cable lines rooted in a city 3000 miles away, but the truth is I do a pretty good job focusing on the meaningless and superifical without any outside help. I don’t need Reality TV to expose the fact that there are significant events I should know more about — not just around the globe, not just across the country — but in my church, in my kid’s school, on my street, in my house.
So the thing I’m left asking myself is this: What questions are so important to me that I’d cut out all distractions to explore the answers?
That one Big Question leads to a whole host of smaller ones. Questions about how I prioritize my time and spend my money. Questions about the kind of people I want to invest into and the ones I seek out to invest into me. Questions about what I’m reading and watching and surfing. Questions about how God is moving in the world and in the lives of people I love and what he’s whispering inside my own heart.
I want to live deeply in a world that often feels shallow. I want to live below the surface in a culture that suffocates me with the superficial. I want to ask good questions and know significant answers.
And for Pete’s sake, I want to name all four faces on Mt. Rushmore.