Just desserts in an appetizer world

For the world offers only the lust
for physical pleasure,
the lust for everything we see,
and pride in our possessions.
These are not from the Father.
They are from this evil world.

(1 John 2:16, NLT)

Earlier this month I happened across an article about a study looking at the impact the media has on health. The study was actually a consolidation of some 173 different research projects over the past 28 years that looked at lifestyle links to bad health in children and adolescents.

Media Bombardment Is Linked To Ill Effects During Childhood
Washington Post
December 02, 2008

In a detailed look at nearly 30 years of research on how television, music, movies and other media affect the lives of children and adolescents, a new study released today found an array of negative health effects linked to greater use.

The report found strong connections between media exposure and problems of childhood obesity and tobacco use. Nearly as strong was the link to early sexual behavior.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Yale University said they were surprised that so many studies pointed in the same direction. In all, 173 research efforts, going back to 1980, were analyzed, rated and brought together in what the researchers said was the first comprehensive view of the topic. About 80 percent of the studies showed a link between a negative health outcome and media hours or content.

The average modern child spends nearly 45 hours a week with television, movies, magazines, music, the Internet, cellphones and video games, the study reported. By comparison, children spend 17 hours a week with their parents on average and 30 hours a week in school, the study said.

While the study was looking exclusively at children, this isn’t a problem exclusive to children, of course. The appeal of media is entertainment; entertainment attracts eyes and whatever attracts eyes is going to attract advertising, and advertising deliberately sets out to stoke our appetite for what feels good or looks good or that we absolutely have to have. And ever since Eve first cast eyes on that juicy apple our appetites have gotten us into trouble. There’s even an old saying about one’s eyes being bigger than his stomach, referring to someone who has bitten off more than he can chew, or has more on his plate than he can digest.

It is not an uncommon failing that our lust often outpaces our wisdom, which tags along behind like a troublesome little brother shouting, “Hey, wait up!” or perhaps like Boo-Boo timidly suggesting, “The Ranger isn’t going to like that, Yogi,” as our hero launches into another misadventure in quest of a “pick-a-nic basket!” Jane Austen would not be dismayed today to learn that “Sense” still outpaces “Sensibility”.

I’m not talking just about food, either. There’s hardly a “crisis” in our society today not caused by our unchecked appetites. We have an increasingly obese population packing on pounds as we pound down the pomme frites (believe me, I know whereof I speak); we over-extend ourselves financially choosing rewards over reason, all as the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) goes up every year while the supposed adults shrug their shoulders and say, “What are you gonna do?”

Now you didn’t need me to point out those things in the previous paragraphs, or to suggest that something’s just not right. We all “know better”, yet things always seem to get out of hand. Why? Because we’re living in an appetizer world and all too often wind up with our just desserts.

We like to think we’re sophisticated and impervious to the countless advertisments bombarding us everyday, yet this is the air we breathe and the water we swim in. Most of the media messages we see, and almost all of the advertising, is in one or more quadrants of the “You know you want it/gotta have it/deserve it/you can get it easy” matrix, driving a nearly insatiable hunger that goes beyond mere calories, rendering restraint as something quaint and to be ridiculed.

Well, self-restraint, anyway. External restraints are all the rage today as those who would scoff and say abstinence is unnatural and impossible will turn around in the next vote in the legislature and ban smoking and then cast their eyes on the grease merchants. Self-government is the highest and purest form of government and the hardest to achieve because it threatens all other forms of government and these fight back and they play for keeps.

Those who would seek dominion over us will tell us to have sex with whoever, whenever and however but we can’t be trusted with what we put in our bodies or how we spend our money and everyday “we” prove them right in our greed and excess because everyone else is doing it. Conservatives like to say that the government should learn to live within its means like the average family does, but how can that be when the average family itself is over-leveraged? I heard a speaker say recently that people aren’t using credit now for luxuries or splurges but to cover the bills for the necessities.

If we don’t govern ourselves someone else will be glad to do it and even be embraced for it, at least initially. Why is there always so much interest in the latest diet? Because we all want an easier way to lose weight other than eating less and exercising more and hope springs eternal that some outside agency, or eating plan, will come in with its rules and make us thinner or better over night. The mortgage crisis was created by programs that portrayed home values as a Big Rock Candy Mountain of paradise and finance as being nothing but whip cream and bon-bons — and then Hansel and Gretel are shocked when they wind up with a tummy-ache and find out they’re trapped. Then the government steps in and says, “Oh, you foolish children, look what I have to clean up” and we bob our heads sheepishly and say, “Yes, Mum” without asking who set the table in the first place.

The government is now our financial diet plan but rather than trying to restrict our intake it seeks to pour more money into the candy store, hoping that it is a rising tide that will lift all boats when in fact it is a a rising tide of obligation that levels, rather than lifts, all debts. The water rises but now all of us will be up to our necks.

One thought on “Just desserts in an appetizer world

  1. I find that the older I get, the more I real8ize that you can’t ‘save’ people. Money, or bariatric surgery,won’t fix a problem because the behavior hasn’t changed.

    I have a friend who wants to get bariatric surgery because she is convinced that she ‘can’t lose weight’. Even though this is the same friend whose diet includes not one vegetable, a bunch of fast food, and soda. Because she won’t watch what she eats now, she’ll be obsessively watching what she eats for the rest of her life.

    “There’s hardly a “crisis” in our society today not caused by our unchecked appetites.”

    Indeed.

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