Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Food, clothing, shelter, and that other thing ...

I work in a bookstore, and a woman today commented on the price of a book she was holding. She said to me, "There goes my grocery money." She meant it as a joke, and we both laughed about it, but after she walked away, I sort of stood there for a moment thinking about what she said.

Entertainment is one of the most important aspects of our lives. More than just something we want, I believe it is an actual necessity. We all need our health to live, and money to provide the means; but entertainment can help us feel that life is worth living. We shouldn't spend our food money on books and DVD's, of course, but we should always set aside time (and occasionally money) for the things we enjoy.

People have always acknowledged this in one way or another. In the Middle Ages, before television, electricity, and even before most people could read, you could still make a decent living as an entertainer; a bard, or a storyteller, or if you were really lucky, as a court jester for kings and queens. Though people didn't always have money, if they had food or a place to stay, then they would gladly trade it in return for a well-delivered song or story.

Today, we find ourselves in roughly the same situation. We buy tickets to professional sporting events, concerts, movies, plays, theme parks, and museums. We fill our homes with books, stereos, TV's, and other types of media. News programs sensationalize the most mundane events in attempts to draw more viewers, because they know they need to make it "entertaining". Even the president of the United States is now just as likely to choose a late night talk show as a venue for educating the public as he is to choose a traditional news outlet.

Some would say we place too much emphasis on entertainment. I say, seeing as how it has stood the tests of time and innovation, that we should all reexamine its role in our own lives. Workplaces now allow music to be played, because it increases productivity. A happy worker is a productive worker, after all. Companies that produce video games have been developing learning programs for young, and some not-so-young, children because it helps speed the learning process. Some of the best television shows and movies today are hailed as such because they "make people think" at the same time. I've always felt that entertainment didn't have to be single-minded. You can inspire and enrich, as well, if you just make the effort.

Granted, in my own country as in others, we could all probably spend a little less time in front of the television; but that doesn't make it wrong. We simply need to be wise about how much time we spend on any activity. We also need to be wise about how that time is spent. Some say moderation is the key. I say the key is in balance. Some people actually do spend their grocery money on music and movies. Money spent on iPods and portable DVD players could just as easily, and much more wisely, be spent on health insurance, or saved against possible future emergencies. You don't always need to save every penny, of course, but you should always have balance in how you use your money.

There are many different kinds of entertainment, of course, and not all of them cost money. In my life, the emphasis has always been on storytelling (I was never very athletic growing up). From Kindergarten to my senior year, the schools I attended always gave us books, short stories, plays, and musicals to read and study. I was an avid reader, though I watched my share of TV, as well. All that I asked was that the story be a good one, and that they tell it well. That's the standard I set for my own writing, my own storytelling.

Hopefully, I'll be able to do more than simply entertain with my words. I do hope to enrich and inspire at the same time. I certainly hope that people continue to place importance on entertainment, and not because I want to make a living as a writer someday. It's a necessity, as important as food or water. I'm going to close this blog with one of my favorite quotes; from a movie, in fact:

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Now medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life; but poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." - Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

No comments:

Post a Comment