Superficiality is the curse of our age." So begins Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Fosters classic defense of traditional spiritual practices such as meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, and solitude. Published in 1978, Fosters book offered a corrective to Americas increasingly alienating and shortsighted cultural values - values that had inevitably infected the life of the church as well. Three decades later, Fosters critique of the "doctrine of instant satisfaction" is more vital than ever, for technology now mediates all aspects of our lives, putting gigabytes of information in our hands (or handheld devices) but offering us little incentive to process it meaningfully. As a result, we are a people driven to distraction by trivia - by facts and figures, sound-bites, and rhetoric divorced from meaning or human consequence.
The traditional Hollywood cinema is a direct contributor to this superficiality. Most films playing at your local multiplex - like most television shows, political speeches, and pharmaceutical advertisements - actively reinforce the comforting notion that all determining forces, whether social, political, economic, or biological, can be overcome through some combination of will, effort, and, if need be, superhuman or transcendent goodness. The assumption is that a narrative can and will be written that will discover a perfect order amid the filmed worlds chaos. Think of the standard comic book blockbuster, murder mystery, courtroom drama, or police procedural. The clues will all add up in the end. The dissonances will all be resolved. And in two hours or less.