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Noa Alarcón

Joyful versus entertained

Our modern society  has evolved in such a way that the manner it has chosen to resolve the class struggle has been to try to implement the entertainment principle as a “need” for human beings.

LOVE AND CONTEXT AUTHOR Noa Alarcón Melchor TRANSLATOR Olivier Py, Jonathan Skipper 08 JUNE 2016 10:03 h GMT+1
rotterdam, city A view of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. / Jurrian Snikkers (Unsplash, CC)

May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the father…

Colossians 1:11-12

Last summer I had a great time in first-century Corinth, reading, studying and enjoying Paul’s letters. They made such a big impact on me that they inspired the embryo of a book that I hope to finish soon in order to share it with you. This summer I am going to Colossae. Every week I’ll read a portion of the letter to the church of that city and I’ll try to understand what Paul says in it that can be applied – in love - to our present context.

I don’t aim to be systematic nor will I be obsessed by travel guides (also known now as “biblical commentaries”), in order to taste a different way to travel. If you want to join me (in Spanish), click on #VeranoEnColosas on Twitter and Facebook to read and interact with my travel commentaries.

The inauguration of Gran Vía’s Primark was quite a big event, even for those of us from Madrid. I passed by it recently, though I didn’t dare go in. But I was struck by the proliferation of clothing brand shops not just here and there but everywhere; a booming market indeed.

This is only due to a funny commercial fashion: buying clothes is not a need, it’s a form of entertainment. These brands are not really competing with each other, they benefit from the stream of potential buyers who, absorbed by their entertained moment, are still buying bagatelles on their way out.

In 1899, entering the 20th century, Thorstein Veblen in his Theory of The Entertained Class, wrote a thorough study about this kind of entertainment-as-lifestyle, and even further as a class distinctive for all human societies throughout history. The rich and the powerful are those who can afford not to work and spend their time entertaining themselves. The great paradox is that, entering the 21t century, our modern society has evolved in such a way (sponsored by the undeniable moral corruption from sin that affects us) that the manner it has chosen to resolve the class struggle has been to try to implement the entertainment principle as a “need” for human beings.

Everyone, from every class, high, middle or low, must spend their spare time entertaining themselves. I'm not exaggerating. The activities which at other times were cultural ones (and necessary in the development of a society) such as cinema, theatre or music, are now found in the entertainment category. We can’t do without them, but we promote them as a form of triviality.

When I read Colossians 1, I understand that there is something fascinating to me about Christian life, the more I get to know it, and that is this deep, calm joy that runs through our lives when we are in Christ, similar to that underground river that feeds an arid land and gives balance to its ecosystem without the need to be noticed. “The secret is: Christ in you” (Col 1:27). This is the joy chapter 1 is talking about, and it is a surprise to realise, suddenly, that it is relatively not very “normal” nowadays, even among a lot of Christians.

What is usually normal is a new flow of bitterness, a new lack of understanding of what is going on within us, or another cold disappointment that runs underneath our lives. What is normal is to be convinced by others that the balance of our daily living should come from external sources, although this is as useless as claiming to fill the flow of a dry river opening the kitchen tap. One of these external sources is precisely to go out to get entertained, nearly as a must: we have to spend the spare time of our life in entertainment activities. The offer is overwhelming, and novelties are constantly coming up, as with all that is modern.  

I am of course not despising entertainment and the need to take a rest, seeing that God Himself ordered us to rest. I don’t believe it is wrong to see a movie, to play video games or to go and buy clothes. What I am addressing is what motivates our heart. I am talking about the problem we have when we feel bad, down and discouraged on a given day and, in order to feel better, we go and buy bagatelles (what I usually did in the past when I had not understood the meaning of these words in Colossians).

The Word of God says that if we are in Christ we have the opportunity to be filled with joy (Col 1:11), as long as we believe that and stay stable and steadfast in all this knowledge (Col 1:23). If God came to make peace through Christ reconciling to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Col 1:20), and if Christ lives in us by His Spirit (Col 1:27), we have to experience that peace firsthand. And for those who might doubt, when someone is filled, by definition, he can’t have more.

That means that whatever the activity (going to the movies, having supper with friends, going to buy clothes when we need to) he won’t do it to fill his disquiet, his dry flow, but to be a participant of the life and the grace given us by God on this earth. 

Noa Alarcón. Writer and literary critic.




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