I remember being really annoyed as a kid when MTV stopped playing music. (Above reproach alert: I was not a Christian then.) Instead of music videos they had shows about the lives of the musicians. It was so bad they actually spun off a whole new channel (MTV2) that actually played music so that they could basically dedicate MTV exclusively to non-music.
I’m much older now and so I listen to talk radio. Funny enough, they’re doing the same thing. They rarely talk about the actual acts of the stars they care about. Instead, they talk about their lives outside of baseball, football, or basketball. Talent that goes beyond anything we could ever dream interests us not to the talent but to the talented. We want to know them more than we want to watch what they do. At least that’s what sells.
Everywhere I turn, media is doing this.
The History Channel wins ratings when it tells us the true story of Da Vinci or Van Gogh or Beethoven. The art of these masters flashes on the screen for a moment before and after commercial breaks, but it’s not the main attraction.
In 1984, Hollywood struck it rich and won an Oscar with Amadeus, a movie about Mozart. His tunes played in the background, but it was the life of the genius that intrigued the masses. We want to know him because the music is so overwhelming.
Reality TV shows take us into the homes of the talented all the time. DVDs are filled with extras which always let us hear more about the stars of the show. “Behind the Music” is more popular than the music.
Every normal person, people with mundane talents and average intellect, people like me (and probably you), seem caught up in curiosity. What are these people really like? The genius grabs our attention, but the products that flow from their super-imagination are the appetizer. Our gut tells us that the person is much greater than the product.
But maybe I shouldn’t have been so annoyed. When we find ourselves more drawn to the personality than the product, we might be heading in a good direction. Or, at the very least, we are revealing something about ourselves that God has shaped. The author of Hebrews might have pitched “Behind Creation” as the next great show because “the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself” (Hebrews 3:3).
God himself made our world in order to captivate our attention. He wanted us to be overwhelmed by his genius. But he did not want us to end with simply a fascination on his works of art. He intended us to almost neglect the music in favor of the Musician, ignore the sculpture to spend time investigating the Sculptor.
I sat in a classroom while C.S. Lewis expert Jerry Root began describing a sunset he watched off the coast of Santa Barbara. His ability to paint the scene made us forget we were in a 70s era bunker without windows. After a few moments of whisking us into a daydream of paradise, he hit his climax, “What must he be like if this is what he lets us see of his creativity?”