“Did you hear that bird last night?” The question rolled off the tongues of sleepy, eye rubbing pilgrims as they made their way down the hill toward the breakfast line. Talk of the noisy whippoorwill would not only rattle around the chow line, but it was the hot topic dominating the men’s mid-morning break-out session.
The bridled bird sang away the full-mooned night. Bellowing its repetitive chirps across the old Craig Springs resort, nestled in a Virginia mountain side. Its constant calling broke the country silence and caused more than a couple of travelers to lie wide-eyed in their bunks fantasizing about clever and violent ways to end the bird’s seemingly relentless serenade.
Of course, I had to rely on the accounts of my cabin neighbors because as for me and mine not a single one of us had been roused by the reportedly irritating chatter of that infamous birdie. That’s not to say, I’d spent a peaceful night sleeping. No, I’d been busy wrestling the baby octopus (aka my 10 month old), who’d been wedged beside me in my rock-hard, twin-sized, summer camp bunk. But in all the times (give or take a dozen) I’d awaken to push a foot out of my rib cage, reposition a hand off of my face or stumble to the bathroom, I never once registered a whip or a will within my earshot.
I attributed the good, nocturnal fortune to our resident flocks back home. As keepers of a couple (or three) dutiful roosters, our home-base air is regularly saturated with clucking, cawing and crowing. So much so, that we’ve all learned to turn a deaf ear to it. In case you aren’t farmer savvy, it is a complete myth that roosters make good alarm clock substitutes (unless of course you fancy a buzzer that blares randomly and repeatedly throughout the day). Our familiarity with pre-dawn ranting facilitated a kind of blissful ignorance in our cabin while our friends were hiding under pillow mufflers in an attempt to escape the auditory intrusion.
As Catholics we are destined to live in the world, but not be of it. Nowadays, though, the constant cries of an anything goes (well anything but morality) culture threaten to dull our senses. If we tune in to every fantasy-relationship, reality drama or latest, blockbuster, romantic comedy, we’d come to believe that love is nothing more than a satisfying French kiss finished off with an orgasm on the first date. Sitcoms would have us convinced that the all-American family has morphed from June and Ward Cleaver to Gloria and Jay Pritchett (Modern Family). And no story tugs at the heart-strings or propels your talent show popularity status quite like a good I-came-out-and-my-parents-didn’t-throw-me-a-party story according to this season’s (meaning every season’s) sing-off show. You can’t scan the daily Yahoo news or social media feeds without encountering some LGBTQIDKTCWXYZ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Questioning, I Don’t Know, Totally Confused…) acronym.
Not more than two decades ago, our majority consciences would have been pricked by the in-your-face anti-Christian messages that today barely register a blip on the sensitivity meter. I’ve been accused (along with all Christians or Republicans for that matter) of pinning away for the the bygone days of the 50’s (funny since I never spent a day in that decade). It seems the times they are a-changing I’m told and we all need to keep up (or at least shut up). Tolerance is the vocabulary word best committed to memory, although its definition is something a bit more fluid. This is the current cultural diatribe that floods our senses minute to minute.
While our evenings benefit from my family’s ability to adapt to the noise of outdoor life, becoming deaf to the errors of our culture won’t lead us to peaceful slumber in the long term. We need to be vigilant for that night time thief that seems an inevitable foe circling the perimeter.
It has been a number of years ago now that we canceled our subscription to satellite TV and we only watch a handful of mainstream, free programming (or movies on DVD). As a generally rule we try hard to filter out most inappropriate media messages because we realize how easily desensitized we can become. Occasionally, when I’m particularly bored I grab the remote and surf our twelve channel wave. It astounds and disturbs me to consider the sheer number of sitcoms and nighttime dramas whose central (if not sole) theme is sex.
Having been enticed by Big Bang fans, I gave the show ten minutes of my time, but it lost me seconds into the main character’s nerdy sex jokes in the restaurant scene. Even Bones tries too hard to make viewers comfortable with the notion that an otherwise genius scientist has no health concerns when it comes to bedding random and numerous lovers.
And when did the seven dirty words ban get lifted? Or perhaps, I’m just not cool enough to get the side splitting humor of New Girls’ playful use of the term d (bleep) bag. I’m guessing routine viewers/listeners either enjoy this line of crass humor like a bird aficionado might have relished the whippoorwill’s incessant chirping or they’re ingesting these messages while in a semi-comatose state. My money’s on the latter scenario.
As parents, we have a responsibility to not only guard our hearts and minds from these twisted messages, but to protect our children. Sure we could pretend our kids are wise enough to brush off the constant bombardment, but then no one should be surprised when they encounter a scene like the one played out in A Christmas Story. Little Ralphie’s mother had no idea where he’d picked up the repertoire of cuss words he’d unleashed on the playground bully. Certainly, the stream of curses echoing from his own basement (where his dad was engaged in repairing the water heater again) couldn’t have been to blame.
Just the same, we need to hone our eyes and ears to sense danger. Danger that masks itself in the form of prime time programming, advertising, top forty lyrics and news media headlines. There’s a battle before us and we must prepare by first shielding ourselves from the constant din of errors whose sole purpose is lull our consciences to sleep. When we regain our sensitivity, we’re less attracted to worldliness and better able to hear the still, small voice of Truth.