August 09, 2016

Pop Culture's Fascinating with Survivor Shows

I suspect the success of survivor type shows, which proliferate now, is subconscious testimony to people recognizing that a culture that encourages weakness and victimhood over self-reliance and Stoicism is not a good foundation not only for society in general (witness the financial bankruptcy path we're on) but even for our own individual happiness and well-being. I'm reading The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living by Kevin Vost (his book on Dominicans was recommended to us at Mass).  The “offer it up” mentality that the Church used to emphasize with regard to suffering and discomfort seems like that's the only viable way of life in this vale of tears, especially as we enter the valley of the shadow of death in our old age - that fearsome time when most everything gets stripped from us. (The survivor show Naked and Afraid is a literal stripping; Alone is a stripping of all friends and society.)

The ancient Stoics were able to withstand (cheerily!) the most heinous imprisonments and tortures, and it must be incredibly comforting to know you can handle whatever life throws at you.

It certainly feels like God's trying to tell me something given that my at the same time I'm reading Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir of a guy who escaped the grinding poverty and feelings of helplessness that paralyze Appalachia. He writes of his time in the Marines:
The trials of my youth instilled a debilitating self-doubt. Instead of congratulating myself on having overcome some obstacles, I worried that I’d be overcome by the next ones. Marine Corps boot camp, with its barrage of challenges big and small, began to teach me I had underestimated myself…I’m not saying ability doesn’t matter. It certainly helps. But there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself—that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability. This is why, whenever people ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.” The Marine Corps excised that feeling like a surgeon does a tumor.
Also reading the Russell Kirk bio and he was a great devotee of the ancient Stoic philosophers. Christianity is Stoicism that can "touch the heart" and not just the mind, I've heard it said.

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