Remember the old show At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert? It was a TV show with two movie critics who were about as opposite as they could be. One was fat, the other thin. One was hairy, one bald. They even had completely different tastes in movies. They would sit each week and review the movies that they’d watched. They’d argue a lot, but if a movie got “two thumbs up,” you knew it would be good.
I used to watch the show sometimes, not really for the movies, but mostly because of the conversations and interplay between the two men. What always struck me though, was that the joy of just getting lost in a film seemed to be missing from them. They discussed plot elements and the charisma of the actors, but there was no awe. I suppose that a movie critic wouldn’t be a good one if he just said, “wow,” about every movie. But nonetheless, I don’t think I’d ever want to be one of those guys.
Actually, I’ve never wanted to be a critic of anything. But I feel a bit of a constant struggle to keep that raw innocence, that “double rainbow” fascination with things in life. My psyche keeps wanting to judge and consume.
I thought about this more when I recently had a friend email me some songs as part of an informal music exchange we’d been having. I waited until I had the time to truly sit and absorb the music before responding. One was depressing and felt a little like emotional manipulation, but other than that exception, they were all melodic and quite beautiful.
I opened up an email reply and started to type out a detailed dissertation concerning the qualities and various elements of each song. One was lacking a significant hook. One seemed to have excessive vocal runs. On it went, till suddenly I stopped myself midsentence and…
I looked at what I had been typing. This was truly a great job of music criticism, yet in my flurry of analysis a beam of clarity broke through. My friend wasn’t sending me songs so that I could give them the Simon Cowell treatment. The point behind the exchange was to say “Here is some music that is affecting me right now.” It was about sharing a little of what is happening in our lives and hearts. And here I was, trying to determine the musical quality of each song.
I don’t know exactly why my emotional train got off track. But I do know that it seems a lot of people I talk to have become perpetual talent scouts of almost everything around them, and I guess I am starting to fall into the same sort of thinking. But I don’t want to.
I don’t think God wants us to either. As far as I know Him, God seems to be less focused on judging us all the time, as He is in enjoying relationship with us. It is not God who focuses constantly on judgment, which is funny because He is the one who has the right to be. It is us who have made Him out to be perpetually on the judges bench casting down pronouncements on everything. My favorite quote of all time, by G.K. Chesterton goes:
Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Maybe God makes the sunset every night both because He has just never gotten tired of it, but also because He just wants us to see its beauty. No, I’m not denying that chemicals in the atmosphere and moisture produce the color. But maybe God directs it all like some heavenly maestro, blues and reds, sweeping violets and touches of orange, all for some unwitting audience here on earth who spends more time focusing on our business than on any great cosmic ballet.
I’ve never sat looking at the sunset and picked out the colors that are lacking, or even debated whether it was as pretty as other sunsets I’ve seen. I know people who can do that, but not me. I don’t feel like I have the qualifications to do that. I can’t make a sunset, but I can enjoy it. It could be that is why God made it, for me to enjoy.
I want to approach much of life with that same wild-eyed wonder of a child. I want to listen to music with a smile. If I don’t want to be a movie critic, I should try not to be one in other areas of my life too.