Trinity Lutheran School’s monthly newsletter
TLS Touchstones #4 – Neil Postman, Brave New World, and the “sea of irrelevance”
Since its publication in 1985, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business has galvanized serious reflection on the nature of man’s relationship with media. We might expect a similar work today to have a more relevant subtitle— perhaps “Public Discourse in an Age of Snapchat”? Despite its age, though, Postman’s work is not what you would call “dated.” It has remained enduringly relevant, and may be fruitfully read by all who seek to cultivate the life of the mind in an age which seems to be dominated by impulsivity and thoughtlessness. We who by the grace of God have the mind of Christ and desire to grow in true wisdom might glean much good from this book.
For your reading pleasure, here a few paragraphs from the author’s original preface to Amusing Ourselves to Death:
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another—slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
Speaking for myself, I find the foregoing lines both ominous and inspiring. If you concur, get yourself a copy of the book. It’s not a long read, and it’ll hook you, trust me!
- There will be an Advent Midweek Service next Wednesday, December 6, at 6:30 PM, with a light meal beforehand at 5:30 PM. All are welcome! This is a great opportunity for school families to visit a service at Trinity! These Midweek services will be held every Wednesday until Christmas.
- Join us at the Barnes & Noble Book Fair fundraising event on Sunday, December 10! TLS students will be singing in the store for customers starting at 1:00 PM— please wear your Trinity shirts! This year we have the opportunity to sit at a wrapping table and wrap gifts for donations. A signup sheet will be posted on the bulletin board at school if you are interested in helping. If you are unable to sign up at school, please reach out to Elon Christianson, and she will put your name on the sheet. A handout with some special event coupons went home with your child earlier this week. If you cannot find it, contact the office, and we will send another. The online book fair will be open December 10-15. Instructions for online book fair are as follows: Go to BN.com/bookfairs and shop as you normally would. When you check out, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “add/edit” on the “apply to book fair.” Enter Trinity’s book fair code (12274759) and apply.
- Kids don’t need to bring a lunch to school on Thursday, December 14— this is the annual Grinch Lunch, provided by the Trinity PTL! The students look forward to this fun event every year. (NB: Due to budgetary constraints, this event is limited to TLS students and faculty/staff only.)
- The TLS Christmas Program is scheduled for the evening of Friday, December 15. TLS students’ attendance and participation is expected. The program will consist of two parts:
- 6:30 PM (Undercroft) – Grades PreS-2 will be singing an assortment of Christmas music
- ~7:00 PM (Chapel) – Grades 1-8 will be singing as part of a Christmas Choral Vespers service. All are invited! The service should last approximately half an hour. We are planning on having cookies and cocoa in the undercroft following. Keep an eye out for details— and volunteer requests!
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Memory Work: Week of December 3
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)
The Second Article: Redemption – And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean? – I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
View the complete text of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation here.
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