Out-of-this-world fantasies eclipse down-to-earth realities
Berit Kjos - February 3, 2003
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Bored with the real world and caught up in intergalactic fantasies and virtual thrills, many American youths have little time for NASA's daring feats. Since genuine science can never keep up with a soaring imagination, even the world's most amazing scientific advances can seem all too slow and repetitive for those who view space travel through the filter of fast-action movies and computer games.
In a New York Times article, "Raised on Technology, They Shrug at Space," Kate Zernike describes this growing mental and generational gap:
Like so many of his generation, Jim Lubinski vividly recalls watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, on a small black-and-white television. He remembers where he was... when he heard that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded....
His 14-year-old son, Joe, smiles politely at these stories. The 10th-grader does not leave home without his cell phone. He takes a DVD player on airplane trips to watch movies and he downloads music to an MP3 player....To Joe, space shuttle launchings seem ordinary."
Of course, space shuttles also became "ordinary" to adults. But more often than not, it was lack of information, not flights of imagination, that hid the realities of space travel from our minds. And, believe it or not, fantasy flights threaten our true understanding of reality more than either ignorance or distractions. Consider these two reasons:
First, mythical worlds of fantasy tend to distort or replace facts about the real world. A far more lasting "escape from reality" than most will admit, a fantasy sends misleading images to the mind and emotions. Though hostile to life, outer space can seem friendly and earth-like to Star Wars fans. And the actual time-space dimensions, which stretch far beyond our comprehension, begin to shrink in significance.
This postmodern shift from fact to fantasy began decades ago.[See Chronology of the NEA] The title of a 1990 article in Science World said it well: "Kid's vision of the future is out of this world." The real world seems far less exciting when minds soar to futuristic "space colonies" and extraterrestrial friends."
Second, fantasies reshape and mold a person's view of reality. "I know the secret of making the average American believe anything I want him to. Just let me control television," said Hal Becker, media expert and management consultant with the Futures Group. "You put something on the television and it becomes reality. If the world outside the TV set contradicts the images, people start trying to change the world to make it like the TV set images....''
Knowing "the difference between fact and fantasy" offers little protection against this bombardment of feel-good suggestions. Ponder these words penned by Walter Lippmann many years ago. Marveling at Hollywood's power to change values and shape public opinion, this influential reporter knew well that few viewers would logically evaluate the message they received. The majority would simply absorb the suggestions and images, blending them into their understanding of reality. No need for anyone to think for themselves! For, with a movie,
"the whole process of observing, describing, reporting, and then imagining has been accomplished for you. Without more trouble than is needed to stay awake, the result which your imagination is always aiming at is reeled off on the screen.''
Back in the eighties, Tony Lentz, then an assistant professor of speech at the Pennsylvania State University, examined the social cost of such passive, mind-dulling entertainment. Students would come to his classes without the needed oral and written skills. Not only were they incapable of writing coherently, many couldn't even speak intelligently.
In case you wonder if these devastating disabilities were merely caused by our failing education system, know that Professor Lentz answers no. In his paper, "The Medium Is Madness,'' he tells us that these students were not only incapable of thinking logically, they "had no desire to think." He continued,
"Allowing ourselves to be influenced by the subtle but powerful illusions presented by television, leads to a kind of mass madness that can have rather frightening implications for the future of the nation ... We will have begun to see things that aren't there, giving someone else the power to make up our illusions for us. The prospect is frightening, and given our cultural heritage we should know better.'' Emphasis added.
Hollywood, the mass media and many others who have "the power to make up our illusions for us" have no desire to communicate "our cultural heritage." Nor do they want to include the Biblical God in their picture. But any other spiritual force is okay. A New Age "Christ", a universal "Force", a cosmic "Mind", positive "energy", Gaia or a Mother Earth.... All these fit the prevailing vision of a global spirituality. But God, the sole Creator of the Universe, is considered far too "intolerant" and "divisive" for the global society they envision.
Wizards of the Coast and other game-makers are staffed with creative youth who -- like most of the world's young people -- have embraced a diverse blend of the world's permissive and virtual gods. While their aim may be marketing rather than any social or spiritual mission, they serve our global managers well. For the popular gods, powers, suggestions and images they feed into our children's minds have little to do with truth. They have everything to do with the myths that exalt human potential, occult forces and non-traditional values.
God is left out. There is no room for the mighty Creator who made the sun, the moon and the planets and the vast distant galaxies that thrilled the seven lost astronauts. But how many of them gave credit to the Creator?
The day before she died, Dr. Laurel Clark, one of the seven, sent an email home to her family, friends and 8-year-old son. She wrote:
"Hello from above our magnificent planet Earth.... I have seen some incredible sights: lightning spreading over the Pacific, the Aurora Australis lighting up the entire visible horizon with the city glow of Australia below, the crescent moon setting over the limb of the Earth, the vast plains of Africa and the dunes on Cape Horn, rivers breaking through tall mountain passes, the scars of humanity, the continuous line of life extending from North America, through Central America and into South America....
"I have seen my 'friend' Orion several times. Taking photos of the earth is a real challenge, but a steep learning curve. I think I have finally gotten some beautiful shots the last 2 days. Keeping my fingers crossed that they're in sharp focus....
"I hope you could feel the positive energy that beamed to the whole planet as we glided over our shared planet."
She mentioned "positive energy" but not God. All the more, I appreciate President Bush's willingness to acknowledge God in his message commemorating the seven lost lives. He said he hoped they would all "be safely home." But I wonder how many of the seven actually knew Jesus Christ? How many looked forward to that heavenly home that is far more glorious than the starry universe and the jewel-like planet we call Earth? And how many of the world's fantasy-fed youth understand the difference between God's absolute truths and the mish-mash of myths that shape the American conscience and consciousness in these times?
Many do, for, even in the most self-indulgent of times, our Lord always keeps for Himself a remnant of people who trust and follow Him. No human fantasy or vision can ever shake His plan or alter the unchanging facts about His created order. May we always remember that His hand alone shaped our beautiful planet and hung it in space.
"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." Colossians 1:13-18
Michael Anderson believed that. That's why he could confidently tell his minister: "If this thing doesn't come out right, don't worry about me. I'm, just going on higher."
Col. Rick Husband, the flight's commander, also believed. That's why one of his favorite hymns was this beautiful testimony to God's almighty creative powers and saving grace. May it come alive in our hearts as we remember the fallen and rejoice together in God who raises His faithful ones into eternal life with Him:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
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1. Kate Zernike, "Raised on Technology, They Shrug at Space," The New York Times, 1-1-03.
2. USA Today, 2-21-90.
3. Hal Becker, The American Almanac, May 5, 1997.
4.Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Free Press, 1965, originally published 1922), p. 61. Cited in "Winning CNN Wars" by Frank J. Stech. http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/1994/stech.htm
5. Tony Lentz, ``The Medium Is Madness,'' a paper presented at the World Future Society, 1981. Cited in "Brainwashing: How The British Use The Media for Mass Psychological Warfare," at http://www.stardocs.hit.bg/brainwashing2.htm.
6. The Associated Press, 2-3-03.
7. Job 26:7, 38:2