What do we celebrate?
It seems like a good question to me. By determining what we celebrate as a culture, and how we celebrate as a culture, we can gain an accurate picture of what we hold dear.
For some reason I am obsessed by this video (and not just because it is vaguely pornographic.) This song reached the #1 spot on the charts this summer in the fastest time since the 1960’s. It was the summer anthem of 2010. I admit that it’s catchy. The lyrics and the images both celebrate youth, beauty and sexuality, and while I’m not opposed to celebrating any of these things, it’s the way in which they are celebrated that greatly troubles me.
We often celebrate a beauty that is not real, a youth that is not real, a sexuality that is not real. It is contrived, but not for the sake of imitating the real. On the contrary, the contrived is preferred to the real. Give us airbrushed bodies instead of ones that wrinkle and sag, we say. Give us pornographic fantasies instead of sex. Give us bodies taut with chemicals and surgery instead of real youth. Why do we prefer the unreal instead of the real? I think it is because of what we celebrate.
If we celebrate only youth, beauty, and sex, we are only celebrating those things that are fleeting. They fade and pass; they cannot remain. By celebrating what cannot last, we are always disappointed. That is why the imitation of the real is so much better, we think. Skin may lose the glow of youth, but plastic does not. Sex may not always reach the heights of passion, but the fantasies of our pornographies always do. In this way we try desperately and foolishly to celebrate the eternity of fleeting things.
Why do we not, instead, celebrate the eternal? Why do we not celebrate the stories, and the words that, over the ages, have given countless weary souls respite? Why do we not celebrate the spirit, that eternal part of us that will someday unite with God? Why do we not celebrate eternal cycles of birth, love, and death?
Instead, we celebrate the transitory . We celebrate that which decays, and fantasize of wrapping and preserving these things in plastic and cotton candy…