Simple Fixes

My interest in the Oscar awards ceremony is severely limited. I have a mild interest as to those takers of awards for the various movie making categories. But not enough to dedicate several hours glued to the tube.

And, at any rate, my wife and I had just spent four hours that day driving to and from a three year old’s ‘cowgirl’ birthday party and spent a good three hours there watching fat people line dance.

And in the process of relaxing after this particular storm my wife decided to cover the two of us in white noise by turning on Oprah.

My appreciation of Oprah Winfrey can be measured in extremely round numbers. And with this in mind, her presence in my family room was received with like enthusiasm, to wit: none.

I cannot deny her success. I cannot deny her good deeds. Of course, I resent the living hell out of her insistence upon bringing whole camera crews to document her good deeds. And while related only tangentially to the topic at hand, the issue of general philanthropy is a private issue and is based upon a unique set of an individual’s criteria.

And so it is with an individual’s spiritual foundation or the underpinnings bolstering a relationship between two people.

And I found myself struggling to ignore the noises emanating from the screen but failed when the first of the two New York Times Best Seller authors appeared before us.

The first of the two was a popular God guy. A minister of some sort by the name of Rick Warren. His latest money making book quizzes the reader by its very title. “What on Earth am I Here For?” cleverly ending a sentence in a preposition. Within this little treatise the good Minister classifies your, yes your, life into one of three categories, or as he calls them, levels, from its lowest form to its highest: Survival, success and significance. All three of these levels are based upon your relationship with the Almighty. Are you superficial and only care about the well being of your miserable carcass? Are you doing ok with money but somehow unfulfilled? Or are you a member of Rick Warren’s congregation and a buyer of his books thereby attaining the highest level of spirituality and temporal wellness?

Throughout these so called life lessons, pastor rick would spout out one bumper sticker platitude after another. Here are a few examples: (best read while listening to Aaron Copland)

• “we are product of our past but we dont have to be prisoners of it.”
• “The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.”
• “You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.”
• “A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.”

Not bad, right. Cute. Hallmark. Bumper stickers. Do you find these sayings thought provoking or life changing? You do? Then stop reading and never return to my column again. Because you just don’t get it.

There is nothing profound going on here. There is nothing life changing here. These are all signatures we all have picked up along the way. These kinds of saccharine single message points are bad enough.

And then they had the bad taste to roll out a Mom, to the applause of the audience, who supposedly lost both her supposed kids in a supposed car crash. The unlucky recipients of a drunk driver’s exploits. You can hear her now. “Why?” she would intone. “Why did God do this?” Pastor rick offered the following homilies, “God is making you stronger.” “Your children await you.”

God’s loving glow.

What I found truly irritating was Oprah. I mean, this Warren guy, is making a living. This is his schtick. If you buy it, well, all the better for him. But here’s Oprah making all sorts of O shaped Oprah noises and gestures and taking notes as though she was an enthusiastic Freshman taking notes at her first Psych 101 lecture. To prove she was taking notes, she had the good taste to project her scrawling missives to the viewers, thereby insinuating she was going to take them home and study them for the mid term. Fact is, I can see her turning to the custodian crew after the show and walking away muttering, “throw that shit out.”

The same sophomoric tact was taken by this Psychologist guy, Gary Chapman on this Oprah show that she audaciously entitles “LifeClass.”

Like Warren, who has the good taste of classifying lives into three basic levels, Chapman smilingly smoothes on to this Oprah show advising that the needs of individuals within the context of a relationship can be classified into five basic buckets called, and get this, “Love Languages.” These five so-called languages are, according to the good doctor:

• Acts of service
• Receiving gifts
• Quality time
• Physical touch
• Words of affirmation

The good doctor had the stones to hassle the viewing audience and even Oprah herself to go to his website and take his home brew quiz which, at quiz’ end, would reveal to you into which of the five love language buckets you would be so discretely shoved.

Again, Oprah was kind, generous and brave enough to project to the viewing public her own responses to Chapman’s interrogatories. She gave a lusty “woot woot” announcing she is a ‘words of affirmation’ type of person. I’ll tell ya. I was absolutely fascinated.

Just like Warren, who rolled out a grieving Mom, Chapman rolled out this couple who collectively and smilingly acknowledged that after ten years of marriage, they were living together as though they were roommates. I’m sure their parents were excited to see them both on television. The unspoken subtext between the two of them was pretty simple. She implied that he doesn’t say “I love you” enough. He implied her sexual interest is non existent.

As you might imagine, she turned out to be a ‘words of affirmation’ type and he turned out to be a ‘quality time’ type. Actually I was moderately anticipating his being a ‘physical touch’ type. But both of them were carrying studio provided placards indicating their respective love language. I guess they took the quiz before hand and the studio gave approval to their particular categories. Physical touch somehow seems to imply drooling voyeurs and long coated exhibitionists needing a bath.

Let us back track just a bit. Prior to airing Doctor Chapman’s interview, a very expensive and very flagrant advertising campaign was spewed towards the viewing public espousing the wonders and magic contained within Doctor Chapman’s most recent book entitled cleverly enough, “The 5 Love Languages.”
In the ad several couples waxed effusive about Chapman’s wonderful new tome. “It changed our lives.” Said wife number 1. “We were considering divorce and now we have the best relationship!” The husband and wife team faced each other with upturned mouth corners and perfect teeth. And by the way, these videos were not part of a television commercial, they were part of Oprah’s show.

The prospect of delivering sound bites instead of individually crafted professional advice borders on the criminal in my less than humble opinion. A simplistic one size fits all model simply does not work. I repeat … does not!!
My Sunday night affair with the television and the jingoistic tripe being expectorated in my general direction was bad enough.

But I suppose the aspect of this bilge that truly boiled my blood was more the receptive manor with which the hostess with the mostest attributed or validated the respective content of the stuff.

I found myself resentful over the condescending and patronizing manner with which the material was delivered and extolled. But at the same time I found myself depressed.

The intended recipients of this drivel considered these droppings as worthwhile gems of life changing insightful bits of intelligence.

So I delivered myself to the kitchen and had a strawberry ice pop.