literacy, packaging and imitations

My Uncle Mark is a high school English teacher, and he has this great theory about literacy. (Maybe he'll agree to guest-blog about it here sometime.) I hesitate to even mention it for fear of not doing it justice, but it talks about all the different types of literacy available in our culture besides simply print media. For instance, one can learn to bring literacy to the realm of film and read the symbolism in images, identify themes and so forth.

I like his concept because it challenges me to bring a certain attention to everything I come across, looking for truth and insight even in unexpected places. One such place that has been on my mind lately is a new prime time show on CBS called Love Monkey. It is a must-see for my husband, who is a Tom Cavanagh fan. In the show, Cavanagh plays a music industry executive, and he talks about all the marketing and packaging that surrounds many pop stars. He says it's often used to compensate for lack of talent, among other things. When you come across someone who is the real deal, such smoke screens become obsolete.

I've been bringing this idea to our spiritual journey. It seems like in the absence of genuine spirituality, some people try to construct a lot of (bad) religion to try to maintain the appearance of content. This births religious communities with strict behavioral or doctrinal codes. Another form of packaging for such a community would be atmosphere and ambiance. Think beautiful coffee shop with terrible coffee. These groups focus on things like vision statements, color schemes, elaborate decorations, catch phrases, signage and logos. It's like the film America's Sweethearts, in which film executives work overtime to distract the media at the press junket from the small fact that they don't actually have a film to show them.

I'm amazed by how hungry we are for the real deal in everything from music to spirituality. The distance we'll travel, the price we'll pay, the minor inconveniences and annoyances that simply fall away. Have you ever noticed how quiet it gets inside your head when you're in the presence of the real thing? Only then do you realize how much noise the imitations really make.