Encouragement for life -- from a woman surrounded by it. These excerpts are from Simply Living, a privately syndicated weekly column, dedicated to preserving the joy – and the sanity – of modern family life. If you are interested in publishing Simply Living, please contact Caroline Schermerhorn at: scherm@ee.net.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
By Caroline Schermerhorn
I’m aboard a Delta Airbus for the next 90 minutes, conveniently situated in a window seat right on the wing. Being the responsible mommy-sort I am initially absorbed in looking out the window at the moving wing parts, ready to spot trouble and report it to the cabin crew. I thought my husband might remark, “That’s normal. We all do that.” But he doesn’t cooperate. According to him, everyone doesn’t stare in a paranoid fashion at the plane parts, ready to play the hero and save the plane from certain wreckage.
Good golly, hasn’t he ever seen “Gremlins”?
For that matter, have you ever been able to look at a flock of birds resting serenely on a telephone wire, without hearing the screams of children as they ran from the schoolhouse in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”? And what movie-goer in his right mind has never looked carefully at the shower head just once, ready to jump out of the way of streaming blood?
Okay, maybe I have an overactive imagination. Call it the curse of the artist. But I’m not the only one in our home who gets caught in an occasional day dream.
I have a seven year old boy, for instance, who is easily transported between my home and Middle Earth. With his old blankey thrown over his head in tunic fashion, and a wire hangar/bow on his back, Legolas eats, drinks, and plays – sometimes for days - in my home.
My teens, on the other hand, live more easily in the Victorian age of Pride and Prejudice. Many lovely, romantic, indeed, even passionate girlie letters have been sent through the mail as the result of an occasionally re-screening of that A&E classic.
And to follow the line by line script playing that happens around the dinner table, you might think “A Knight’s Tale” enjoys a weekly showing in our home. (Well, it does.)
Images are powerful.
We like to think they are not. We like to think we can indulge in the latest reality show without adapting their coarse, mealy-mouthed method of verbally ripping someone to shreds. We like to think we can look beyond a steamy ten minutes of an adulterating love affair, and only be affected by the true, noble (?) message of a movie. And who doesn’t kid themselves into picking up the latest newsstand item for a one certain “compelling” article, despite the promise of sex/wealth/beauty displayed on the front.
Despite what we may wish to believe, our reason is fed by our senses. According to the great writer/philosopher G.H. Chesterton, we owe a great deal of what we think to what we see and small and taste and handle. Makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, we make our daily decisions based on the realities we have experienced in our daily life. It’s inescapable. Our common sense, that window of the soul, is nourished (or malnourished) by our five senses.
It goes to follow, then, that my choice of entertainment is much more important than I’d realized. . After all, my body may go on vacation, but my senses do not -- and neither does my mind. Just look at Madison Avenue if you want proof. Here is a multi-billion dollar industry built around the idea that you are definitely, no doubt about it, influenced by what you see and hear. Need proof? What product do you think of when you hear “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony”? What sportswear company is in your mind when you see an innocuous white swoosh? Whose pizza is served under the big red roof? If you answered Coca-Cola, Nike, and Pizza Hut, then you and I have something in common: we use our senses to learn about our world.
It’s not enough to say, “We try to steer our kids’ media choices.” Remember what that great master, Yoda, taught: “There is no try. Do or do not.”