Wednesday, June 25, 2008

George Carlin, and us

Since the death of Comedian George Carlin who died of a heart attack at age 71 Sunday evening, several commentators have mentioned his impact. Dan Phillips @ mentions:

"Carlin's worldview took a toll on him, as drug-use reportedly started the heart-problems that eventually killed him. Five years before his death, the "funny-man" voiced a very dark view:
"I sort of gave up on this whole human adventure a long time ago," he said a couple of years ago. "Divorced myself from it emotionally. I think the human race has squandered its gift, and I think this country has squandered its promise. I think people in America sold out very cheaply, for sneakers and cheeseburgers. And I don't think it's fixable."
Commenting on the impact of this worldview: "Here you see a man who is confronted with the disaster which autonomy has brought on our race. Carlin sees some of the bitter fruits of man's rebellion against God. He longs for redemption. He sees that it will not arise from within us. Yet, like the classic definition of insanity, he has no prescription but more of the same. He was raised Roman Catholic, and probably thought (alas, wrongly) that this exposed him to Christianity, to Christ, to the Gospel. Thus he often expressed contempt for religion. Rejecting the fake, like so many he was inoculated against the real item. Thus apparently Carlin never seriously considered the actual cure whose absence he would later feel so keenly: Jesus Christ, the only hope and redeemer of mankind (John 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:1). As we all naturally do — in spite of his many keen insights — Carlin misdiagnoses the cause, and thus completely misses the cure".

If you are willing to consider the other radical side of the coin look at Michael Spencer @ He notes: "What strikes me as continually ironic is that Carlin and other comedians have become the truth-tellers of our time, while Christians, especially in their official capacities as preachers, etc., have become the embodiment of truth avoidance and truth obscuration. Or, if you’d like to get on the more cynical bus with me and the Ecclesiastes Band, we’re more known for being liars about the human journey than we are for telling the truth. In that sense, I can say a hardy Thank God for George Carlin, who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was, even if it totally overturned the tables so nicely arranged by the orderers of society and the custodian of decent thought.

Carlin embodied Shakespeare’s ideal of the fool. (See King Lear for details.) The Fool was a truthteller wrapped in the costume of a clown. Because you had agreed to submit to his agenda of laughter, you opened yourself up to his agenda of truth. One of the first conversations between Lear and his fool includes a death threat, but the Fool is not intimidated, and soon Lear is begging his Fool to continue being the one person who will tell him the painful, but precious, truth.

Carlin was often plunged into controversy of his own making. He saw the hypocrisy of assigning shock value and criminal consequences to words and he played the trump card of the “7 Words You Can’t Say” routine and changed the culture. I know there are plenty of Christians who equate the Golden Age of morality with a lack of profanity, but I’ll have to differ on that one a bit. Behind Carlin’s crusade to use offensive words was another agenda: an understanding of words with social, political, racial and religious significance that were also dangerous to the status quo. Word control was a form of oppression, and Carlin was the liberator in Fool’s clothing. Christians should be verry careful before they side with the thought/word police. What you gonna do when they come for you?"

Wikipedia has a very complete Carlin entry.

Comedians and those who knew the man discuss Carlin’s life and contribution.

This all goes beyond the death of an entertainer. This impacts all of us in considering how any of us will be remembered when we pass away. It's worth our giving that a thought, regardless of the size of our circle of influence, fame, infamy.

In conclusion, Phillips notes: "I'm not asking that we convince the world to like us. Not going to happen — or we've messed up, somewhere (James 4:4). I'm not saying we should expect fairness from the MSM. I'm more thinking of what we make our emphasis. If the media noted our passing, and mischaracterized us, would our friends have abundant resources to show how ridiculous they are? Or would we have played right into their hands by poor judgment, poor priorities, over-fondness of applause, playing for laughs and roses?"

The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot
(Proverbs 10:7)

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold
(Proverbs 22:1)

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
(Ecclesiastes 7:1-4)

1 comment:

Chris said...

I just want to say that I love your blog,and I want to thank you for not reposting the Mark Driscoll comments that were part of this original post. I am a huge fan of Dan and the whole Team Pyro blog, but I think that Dan went too far with his comments on Mark. It's nice to see the relevant part of the post without an attack of one of our brothers who is battling every day out on the front lines.

God Bless,