The Parable of the Flug in the Air
Ted Turnau, in his new book Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective (see a TGC review here), offers a parable on pop culture:
Once upon a time (in a galaxy not so far away), there lived a community much like ours. One day, their scientists stumbled upon a discovery: there was something in the air they breathed. They called it “flug,” for lack of a better name. They didn’t know where flug came from. Perhaps it was generated by the natural activities of the community’s life together. Perhaps it was an alien substance that had invaded. No one knew for sure. But one thing they did know: Flug changed people. In some, the change was radical and disturbing. In others, the change was more subtle. But every person, every breathing person, underwent a change. Most people didn’t even notice, or didn’t care. They just kept on breathing and changing and living their lives.
Some people became alarmed and angry. They moved away to the high and lofty mountains, hoping they wouldn’t have to breathe the flug-infested air. But being so high up, the sheer altitude and isolation changed them, but in a different way than people who breathed in the flug. And, as it turned out, they couldn’t really avoid it, any more than you or I can avoid breathing.
Some people actually enjoyed the change and became flug-enthusiasts. They saw flug as a doorway into a deeper understanding of the mysteries of life, or something like that. They couldn’t get enough. They even found a way to distill it and spike their cigarettes so as to increase their intake of flug. They called them “flugarettes.” Some people thought this group was being naïve in their surrender to flug, but you couldn’t really convince them otherwise. They just really, really enjoyed their flug.
And finally, there was a group of people who couldn’t decide what to think of flug. So they started asking questions: How and why are we being changed? Where did it come from? Is flug good or bad for us? What does it mean? What is the best way to live with it in our air? They too distilled flug, and then tasted and tested it. One would dip his finger into the beaker, taste it, and say, “Hey, this stuff isn’t half bad!” Another would spit out what he had just tasted and say, “Bleah! This stuff isn’t half good!” And, as it turned out, they were both right. They managed to build a microscope to study flug-distillate. They would lean over it for hours, and they could actually see the goodness and the badness of flug, dark and light filaments spreading out like the tendrils of a vine. The problem was, the dark and light filaments were woven and tangled together, so you can imagine how hard and laborious a process it was to disentangle the good strands from the bad. It was all just so mixed together. But still they persevered, for they knew that mixture meant something.
This book is for that last group of people, the ones who are interested in taking a closer look at flug. Everything that follows flows from a certain assumption, namely, that popular culture is very similar to the flug in the air we breathe. Popular culture is all around us, and it does tend to get under our skin. It does influence us. Of course, the influence isn’t on our lungs, but on our worldviews – on the way we understand God, the world, each other, and ourselves. And, like flug, popular culture is a mixed bag, a messy mixture of good and bad. Comedian Oliver Hardy used to say to Stan Laurel, “Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!” Living in a world suffused by popular culture has landed us, quite literally, into a fine, meaningful mess.
You can read some sample pages from the book here.