Gareth Higgins (the man who is bringing us the Wild Goose Festival) stayed at our house earlier this week. He was in town for the the 2010 Emergent Village Theological Conversation. Yesterday morning before leaving, he teased me a bit. Noting that we have in our otherwise rather modestly appointed home a 42″ flat screen television, he asked me how a “hippie Christian” like me could have such a blatantly materialistic object.
Without thinking, I became defensive, and I’m afraid to say, rather unpleasantly so. “We have that television primarily for Rhiannon,” I said curtly. “She has so few pleasures in her life, we bought her the best TV we could afford.”
Gareth, gentleman that he is, hastened to reassure me that he was only joshing me, and noted ruefully that it’s embarrassing to be a professional film critic (as he is) and yet have so many friends with better TV’s than his own!
Like so many men, ours is a warm friendship shot through by banter, and I quickly regained my composure with him. But I’m left pondering about how quickly defensive I became. Partially it’s because I rather disapprove of television myself (I think Jerry Mander has got it about right). And yet, in all truth, I do enjoy our television, which is nowhere near the largest of consumer TV’s but is more than adequate for our small home. So I live in the tension of enjoying it and not-enjoying it. Add to that all the pain that lies beneath having a child for whom most of life’s pleasures are denied her by her handicap, and wanting her to enjoy something which, again, I have deeply ambivalent feelings about — and I suppose it’s not surprising that I so quickly became defensive in response to an innocent line of teasing.
How rich we human beings are, and how profound our sometimes complex and contradictory ways of being in the world. To admit that I like something that another part of me disapproves of: this is a tricky matter. To recognize that my disapproval has been “out voted” by that part of me which likes the thing I disapprove of, along with my desire to care for someone else (like Rhiannon), requires both self-awareness and a liberal dose of humility. And then, not to get defensive when someone teases me right in the cross hairs of this kind of personal paradox: there is a skill I have yet to learn, alas!