Don’t Let Popular Culture Shape Your View of Reality

In an essay titled “De Futilitate,” where C. S. Lewis was making a point about the distinction our culture makes between the ability of science vs. other kinds of thought to give us knowledge about reality, I noticed something interesting. Here’s the quote:

It is widely believed that scientific thought does put us in touch with reality, whereas moral or metaphysical thought does not. On this view, when we say that the universe is a space-time continuum we are saying something about reality, whereas if we say that the universe is futile, or that men ought to have a living wage, we are only describing our own subjective feelings. That is why in modern stories of what the Americans call ‘scientifictional’ type—stories about unknown species who inhabit other planets or the depth of the sea—these creatures are usually pictured as being wholly devoid of our moral standards but as accepting our scientific standards. The implication is, of course, that scientific thought, being objective, will be the same for all creatures that can reason at all, whereas moral thought, being merely a subjective thing like one’s taste in food, might be expected to vary from species to species.

It struck me, when I read that, how easily popular culture can shape our view of reality without our even realizing it. The truth is, whenever we watch TV, play a video game, or read a book, we immerse ourselves in a world that is not real. It’s the creation of particular human beings, and it reflects their beliefs about reality, not necessarily reality itself.

The example Lewis noted above is a subtle expression of a worldview, but that kind of thing can affect the way we see the world nonetheless, particularly when it’s in the background and not overtly part of the story (i.e., when we’re not consciously aware of our need to analyze what we’re seeing), and especially over time. Spend enough time in artificial worlds that are grounded in false assumptions, and you’ll be changed in ways you didn’t count on.

This is a good reminder to constantly be thinking about the stories we’re taking in (both their overt messages and their subtle assumptions), to compare their worldviews to what we know to be true, and to remind ourselves that what we’re seeing is the result of someone’s imagination, not reality.

And even more importantly, it’s a reminder to constantly saturate ourselves with the Bible—the one true story we can give ourselves to completely, the story we want to shape our heart, our wisdom, and our worldview.

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Amy K. Hall