Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Lessons from Gilligan's Island

Years ago, I bought a book - Worst Television Shows Ever (1980) by Bart Andrews. And Gilligan's Island was one of them. This 1960s sitcom was never expected to survive beyond its pilot. But it made it three years - as long as the original Star Trek - then spun off into infinity in syndication. The critics were wrong. Again. So there.

This dates me. But I remember Gilligan's Island before it went into the endless time loop of reruns. In its first season, one particular episode really spoke to me - Diogenes, Won't You Please Go Home? - and it still does some 45 years later.

Precursor to WikiLeaks?

Gilligan was hiding something and those nosy castaways just had to find out what it was. It was a diary. A secret diary. No big deal. Right? Then his fellow castaways got anxious. What if this secret diary were made public, kind of like the mini version of the WikiLeaks of the 1960s?

The Skipper worried that he would be blamed for the shipwreck and tarred as a bad captain - a career ender for him once they got off the island. The Howells and Ginger fretted about their reputations and public images. Perhaps Gilligan's stories would be fodder for the tabloids?

Each saw the worst of themselves and they were afraid of being exposed for who they really were. And they hated Gilligan for that. Yet, through their anger, the castaways attested to Gilligan's character of truthfulness and honesty.

What to do?

The solution. Spin. So the castaways worked on their own diaries, rewriting history to make themselves look heroic - larger than life. And when they would be rescued, their favorable record of events would be told.

Why the title - Diogenes, Won't You Please Go Home?

The Greek philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope, it was said had "searched with a lantern in the daylight for an honest man." He never found this man. But he found plenty of rascals and scoundrels.

The psalmist in the Old Testament beat Diogenes to it.

I said in my haste, All men are liars.
Psalm 116:11 (King James Version)

And in the 21st century, House echoes that same cynical conclusion - Everybody Lies.

We all had many centuries to think it over, and apparently the consensus agrees with the psalmist.

Back to this episode from the 1960s, none of the castways' stories (except Gilligan's) would have survived the "No Spin Zone" of Diogenes. And if Diogenes had found himself on their island - like so many others fantastically did - it would have been a waste of this cynic's time, so he might as well go back home.

At the end of the story, Mary Ann found the secret diary and leaked it to the others. Gilligan sincerely wrote complimentary things about his fellow castaways:

The Skipper - his bravery in keeping them safe during the storm and shipwreck
Mr. Howell - his humility though he was rich and famous
Mrs. Howell - her grace
Ginger - her inner beauty beneath the glamor

The Professor summed up their feelings to Gilligan: "We see ourselves as we are, but you see us like we would like to be."

For 2011 and into eternity - may we all put behind us our shortcomings and press ahead in becoming the men and women we would like to be and were meant to be.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2 (King James Version)

Question:  Is there any episode in a classic sitcom that has spoken to you?

Picture from Wiki Commons: one of the uninhabited islands of Lakshadweep

Monday, December 20, 2010

Random Acts of Christmas

I love Christmas!

Family. Friends. Faith.  Parties. Reunions. Decorations. Music. Good food. Philanthropy. Giving. Caring. Sharing.

During the coldest and darkest days - at least in the Northern Hemisphere - the Holidays brighten up the bleak days and nights of winter.

I hate Christmas!

For some of the same reasons above.

The pressures. Demands on time. Trying of patience. Demands on the wallet. Getting hit up for more donations from so many good sounding causes.

The days can be cold. The nights are so long.

It can be exhausting, draining. Too much.

Random acts of Christmas?

Yet, during this time of the year seemingly random acts from heaven reach down to touch hearts, made more tender by the season.

And one of these moments can come in the form of the "flash mob" where words from the Holy Scriptures set to music from the 17th century (Messiah - Handel's Hallelujah Chorus) inject themselves into a random 21st century crowd in such an unlikely place - a food court of a mall.

A divine appointment?

I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
Psalm 57: 9 (King James Version)

Question: What random acts of Christmas have touch your heart?

Picture from everystockphoto: wreath circles

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remember Ebenezer Scrooge?

One of the early American hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, had, in my opinion, some puzzling lyrics in its second verse:

"Here I raise mine Ebenezer;"
"Hither by Thy help I’m come;"

I crack a smile at the mention of "Ebenezer." My first thoughts are that of Ebenezer Scrooge.   And Scrooge seems so out of place in a church hymn book, much like the London Bridge is so out of place half way around the world in the middle of the desert in Arizona.

My Ebenezer? What's up with this? Let's start at the beginning.

When Israel was ruled by judges, the Philistines were in the land and those troubling times were described as:

"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Judges 21:25 (King James Version)

Sound like today?

Recently, Raiders of the Lost Ark was broadcast on television. In this movie set in 1936, US Army officers approached Indiana Jones about their concerns that the Germans were coming close to finding the lost Ark of the Covenant. The Nazis believed that the Ark possessed great mystical powers, and that anyone who brought it into battle would be invincible. Of all ironies, the Jews in the Old Testament thought the very same thing and painfully found out otherwise.

Now, go back to the time of judges in ancient Israel, in particular the times of the last judge, Samuel.  Israel went to war - again - with the Philistines and took the Ark of the Covenant with them. (I Samuel 4 - 6) The Israelites treated the Ark as their "good luck charm" and with it they deemed themselves to be invincible in battle. Instead, the Jews suffered a devastating defeat. The Philistines won the battle and captured the Ark.

Only the Ark was not such a blessing to the Philistines.  Everywhere the Ark went, plagues were sure to go. This supreme spoils of war became a hot potato, and it was passed from village to village.

"You take it."
"No, you take it."
 ... etc.

The Philistines had enough and wanted to get rid of it. They put the Ark on a cattle driven cart and sent it back to Israel.

But it was not such a blessing to the finders of the real lost Ark. The Israelites mishandled it, daring to look inside it.  Many died and the people felt devastated. Yet, they should have known better. The Law of Moses gave explicit instructions on how to properly carry and care for the Ark and they just ignored it. It would be another twenty years before the children of Israel were ready to receive the Ark, again.

Finally, the Israelites repented of their idolatry and turned their hearts back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At Mizpeh, the people gathered and the prophet Samuel prayed unto the Lord, offering sacrifices, while the people confessed their sins. The Philistines attacked again, but this time the Lord gave Israel the victory - the first great victory in a long time.

"Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us."

I Samuel 7:12 (King James Version)

Note: Ebenezer means literally - Stone of Help

I don't think it was happenstance that Dickens chose the name Ebenezer Scrooge for his protagonist in "A Christmas Carol." This Ebenezer, much like the humiliated Israelites, eventually repented of idolatry - in his case, the love of money. Ever since 1843, this Ebenezer has become a model of repentance and redemption.

Ebenezer Scrooge can be an Ebenezer - a stone of help. His story can help us remember the Spirit of Christmas. Who it is that really helps us? Not Santa Claus. Not the uncertainty of riches. But the Lord when we seek Him with our whole heart.

Wise men - and women - still seek Him.

Question: This Christmas and the rest of the year, what is your Ebenezer?

Picture from Wiki Commons: Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol-Title page-First edition 1843