Friday, September 02, 2011

The Age of Entertainment

Here's what gets me.

We sure do like to name things, which, some would argue, goes all the way back to Adam, assuming that an Adam ever existed, who all of a sudden opened his eyes one day with the full-blown gift of language and ability to talk. So, Adam looked around, found somebody to talk to and said:

"Madam, I'm Adam."

See? We've even named his first sentence: "palindrome," which is a word, verse or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.

However, even before Adam met his rib, he had to name things: "And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field."

Even before Adam came on the scene, God was naming things: "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night."

Right. How else can you talk about something if you can't identify it by a symbol when one of them isn't around so you can point to it and say "that one there"?

Okay, let's say there was no "Adam" or that he himself is but a symbol for the early development of the human species known as homo sapiens or hominids. Once they learned to communicate with each other, they still had to have symbols with which to refer to something, because otherwise communication was just too slow and dangerous if someone had to drag someone else off to a lion's den just to say, "Beware that thing here."

So, now we have progressed to where we have named everything collectively ("universe," or "cosmos") and everything individually the minute, second or instant we discover it ("atom," not to be confused with Adam, "electron," "nucleus," "proton," "neutron" and so on down the line).

Of course, at that point, the line between concrete and abstract is so blurred as to be perhaps nonexistent, but we also feel the need to name abstract things the minute we think of them, from the small ("second") to the large ("century"). We even give a proper name to a whole century to suit our purposes, such as the Age of Enlightenment (sometimes known as the Age of Reason) for the 18th century of Western thought (that time from 1701 to 1800, or 1700 to 1799, depending on how much you subscribe to computer technology, lingo or thought).

The Age of Enlightenment (or Reason) was so-called, because its writers "applied reason to religion, politics, morality and social life," according to Benet's Readers Encyclopedia, which just about covered everything except for science, which has reason and enlightenment built in.

Now, if the 1700s were the Age of Enlightenment (etc.), what about the 1800s and the 1900s? What about the future? Why wait until something happens or is discovered before we name it? Why not name them now?

We like to talk. We need names for things when we talk about them, and we have to avoid that lion's den when we want to warn our friends about that particular beast.

So, for the purpose of discussion and to bring things up to date, let's call the 1800s the Age of Independence and the 1900s the Age of War. (The Age of Aquarius never really caught on.)

Personally, I want to call the 21st century the Age of Entertainment (although a good case could be made for the Age of Communication). We already jumped the gun in the 1900s, and even though we are a few years into the 2000s, yearly and century boundaries are just as arbitrary as names, and even though other nations, societies and worlds in the cosmos might be concerned with activities other than entertainment, we in the U.S. seem to be consumed and obsessed with amusement, distractions and divertissements.

Even TV Guide said "entertainment has become the primary force in American life and especially in our media" (July 30, 1994). Studies are conducted and stories written that conclude we increasingly value leisure, but increasingly fear we have less leisure time.

Now that television and computers have taken over the scene, the whole world can communicate at once with each other, can experience events at the same time and can discuss those events. And what do we discuss? Madonna, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson.

Maybe the Day is over, Night is upon us and we are huddled around the campfire amusing ourselves with tales of amazement and wonder so we don't have to think about that nasty old lion in its den.

I rest my case.

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