From the DI archives. A while back I was researching the ways our brain processes messages in preparation for a series of messages I gave at a weekend youth retreat based on “The Matrix” movies. Here’s some of my reflections on our image-based culture. -JB
“What we’ve introduced at MTV is nonnarrative form…We rely on mood and emotion. We make you feel a certain way as opposed to you walking away with any particular knowledge.”
-Bob Pittman, founding chairman of MTV, quoted in Dancing in the Dark
As we try to become, as Greg Boyd calls it, “Detectives of our Minds,” we must step back and realize that the primary mode of messages we receive everyday come in the form of IMAGES. Your perceptions of the world — yourself, your friends, your values, your aims, aspirations and desires, your doubts, fears, and beliefs — are being most effectively shaped by the thousands of images you encounter daily, and how your brain interprets them.
For example, you probably don’t shop at Abercrombie & Fitch because of an article you READ on the superior quality and style of their brand. Rather, you have see enough commercials, magazine ads, billboards, and catalog images to convince you that this is what’s hot and desirable in fashion.
Or, consider how movie makers draw viewers out on opening night. They don’t use long, lengthy written reviews for viewers to read and decide it sounds good. Rather, they spend millions on action-packed, alluring “Movie trailers” that capture our imaginations with moving images to draw us in. What websites do we like to spend the most time at? Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Why? Because we love sharing images and watching videos more than reading some long, boring, tall guy’s blog post. <wink wink>
We have moved away from a text-based culture to an image-based culture. By age 18, the average person has spent 15,000 hours in front of the TV compared to 9,000 hours in school. Where do you suppose we learn more? MTV was one of the first to capitalize on this radical shift to an image-drive society — but certainly not the last. They combined the power of images with another powerful mood-swinger, music, to create a mind-numbing combination we call the “Music Video”.
The quote above reveals the secret power of images: they have the power to drive and manipulate our moods, affecting us in ways that are hardly apparent. They attempt to make us feel a certain way rather than imparting information or knowledge. That’s both the beauty of images and the potential danger. This power has been brilliantly harnessed by the advertising industry which spends over $400 billion a year getting their messages out. We are glad to take their bait as the average person watches 40,000 television commercials a year.
I’m only drawing our attention to the power of images, and hope we can become aware of all the hidden messages that are trying to create in us certain desires, needs, values and ambitions. As Christians, we are called to “Take captive every thought to make it obey Christ” and this requires awareness and vigilance. Most of our thoughts take the form of images — that is, they come from our imagination. Don’t get me wrong. I believe television, internet, movies and the rest are all NEUTRAL mediums. I love them all.
Yet, the Bible tells us that Satan is in the business of disguising himself as an angel of light, and we are urged to be aware of “the devil’s schemes.” I believe many of the images we are taking in everyday are being utilized by Satan in ways that distort our view of reality. I believe we need to wake up and pay attention. I believe we need to instead let our minds be immersed in the beautiful image of the invisible God — Jesus Christ!
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, let your MIND dwell on these things.”