Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, of holy memory, begged Abba Pambo to come down from the desert to Alexandria. He went down, and seeing an actress he began to weep. Those who were present asked him the reason for his tears, and he said, “Two things make me weep: one, the loss of this woman; and the other, that I am not so concerned to please God as she is to please wicked men.” (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, trans. Benedicta Ward)
On various sorts of errands I've spent a good amount of time hanging out at bus stops in recent days. One of the things I do while waiting is contemplate the advertisements, those posted at the stop and those on the other buses that pass. What can I say; I'm a five on the Enneagram, 'the observer.'
They intrigue me. Most of all they just impress me; of all of the texts and images I encounter, ads are probably the most carefully and deliberately constructed. I'm in awe of it in a way. The meticulous arrangement of clothes, makeup, posture, expression, etc., to make this person look attractive or cool according to the subtle modulations of fashion, the angle by which a new car is viewed such that it makes you think that it could cure that place inside that feels so powerless, the orchestration of a group scene to make you imagine somewhere inside that if you could hang out with those people--and of course drink or eat or smoke what they're having--then you could feel relaxed or elegant or accepted or loved, and not so awkward and ugly and unappealing as you feel now.
It's really quite impressive, the knowledge of human nature as the insecure mess in which we experience it, wounded as it is by the vanities and lusts and miseries we insist upon for ourselves (and each other) with our sins.
Reflecting on all that, the words of Pambo came back to me. If only I was so eager--with such attention to detail and with such keen precision and cleverness!--to please God in his desire for my salvation, my wholeness, as the advertisers are to play on the wounds of original sin!
I too am interested in ads and taglines for the underlying philosophy and messages. I saw a tagline the other day for the Build-a-Bear company (a store where you can spend a fortune choosing what kind of teddy bear to make). The line was "Make the friend you've always dreamed of". I thought, why...because the friends you have (living or stuffed) just don't cut it? Fascinating...
Father, please avoid the Enneagram like the plague.
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