Now listening to : All the Otis I can get my ears on
Especially recommended : I think, 'That's How Strong My Love Is', but 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' has this thing about it that keeps me from all-out choosing. It's a little fuckedup and sad and neurotic; passive-agressive even. I keep thinking about how it might sound from a female vocalist.
The department hosted a panel discussion the other night on 'Religion & Sports' with a few coaches and athletes. I learned that often, cross-country kids really are nerds (sorry, L.), and that a large number of people can't differentiate between 'morality' and 'religion', whether they're thinking the two are identical or mutually exclusive. That's so completely not the sort of question I want to ask, that I forget how it's the dominant association in the popular American consciousness. Goddamn Enlightenment principles of universal reason and morality.
At any rate, the question I had for the panel (which we did not get to because instead we had to inquire, AGAIN whether the coaches thought people of faith had better characters. Or whether atheists could be moral. Or maybe weren't MORE moral. Oh, the humanity.) has to do with fate. Because it's a topic that rankles. Several of the athletes mentioned (as though it were a talking point) that they didn't think of their talent as their 'own'; they were stewards of abilities given to them by God. They honored Him best by making good use of their talents, not necessarily by winning. Victory and defeat aren't why they do sport, just the side effect of their worshipful performance. The psychological benefits of such an attitude for actual winning have been documented (somewhere. I'm not going to go search out the source unless somebody wants to argue), but that's not really the interesting point for me.
Instead, I wonder whether they then consider it a religious obligation to be an athlete. That is, if their talent was given them by God, using it well is faithful worship of Him; they didn't choose or earn the talent on their own, so anything they gain by it should be offered to the real source of that talent. They didn't choose; it was given. So, then, was it their 'fate' to be athletes? If they were, for whatever reason, to stop running cross country or playing defense, would that be heretical behavior? If they have two talents (football and baseball), do they have to use both of them in order not to waste God's gifts? Is talent an obligation that forecloses any possibity of evolution? Collapsing the question that way, making a theologically precise but operationally annoying distinction between spheres of responsibility, probably isn't the way these speakers would think of, or want to think of, the relationship between their sport and their religion. But it? is interesting.
I come back to the issue of religion in popular culture (tv shows). What is the narrative use of 'religious' characters/situations/explanations, as opposed to 'personal' or 'scientific' ones. I'm not, necessarily, saying that those are the only three sources of meaning (God; the human subject; scientific inquiry), but taking those three as all possible, what makes a writer/producer decide to focus on one or the other? The beginning of my definition of religion is that, "an ideology is religious to the extent that its metaphysics is explicit and morphized," so what storytelling benefit is there to adressing metaphysical elements directly and giving them form?
In the instance of 'fate' (see: Kara in 'Battlestar Galactica' and Sam in 'Supernatural'), it seems to be about tension felt by the character between what they want and what they're forced into. These are, by the way, necessarily opposed. There'd be no tension, naturally, if the destiny was NOT a bitch in the first place. You address the metaphysics directly in order to establish it as the backdrop for frustrating the desires of a character, and you give it form because that's what storytelling (at least, interesting and engaging storytelling) does. There are other ways you could establish the same tension (the order or wish of a powerful or beloved PERSON; the inevitability of concrete and SCIENTIFIC reality), though, so why go the religious route? And fate is a religious category. In 'Battlestar,' it seems to be related to a 'good' power and in 'Supernatural' to an 'evil' one, but the valuation isn't as important to me as its relative transcendance.
Anyway. Fate rankles me for reasons that I can't explain without being boring, so I'm inclined to argue against it. That's less a reason for me to try convincing television writers not to use it, though, than it is to excavate (Dude. I? Was once an english major.) their reasons for doing so in the first place. Saying, 'it's personal preference,' is both boring and leads inevitably to discussions of '7th Heaven', for which I will not join you. By process of elimination, then: we need to examine the structural possibilities of 'religious' elements for drama as performed before the American audience.
And having thus posed the grounds for a question, I slip quietly away before such a thing can come clamoringly into being. I'm a quiet girl, and definite declarations always give me the headache. Academic tease!