The Philosopher Forrest Gump

IN THE MOVIE BASED ON the above character, Forrest Gump is given to sharing his guiding life philosophy, learned from his “Mama.” Hence, “My Mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates.’”

Another of his principles surfaced when people unkindly questioned his intelligence: “My Mama always said, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’”

In other words, “Judge people by what they do, not by how they appear.”

Fair enough, Forrest.

But what are we to make of the growing tsunami of “stupid doing” sweeping the cultural landscape? What can we say of the elevation of “dumbness” to a place of pride and status? Should it be of concern that stupidity passes for high entertainment in the media? Do we have anything to say about the juvenile, scatological, foul-mouthed and sophomoric crudity; the sniggering, moronic, and utter brainless “humor” that—unless we retreat from civilization—floods our senses daily? And for that matter, can we any longer even legitimately use the word civilization with any credibility?

Where does one even start in citing examples? Beavis and Butthead. The Simpsons. Miss Teen South Carolina struggling to express a single coherent sentence. Rap music with its utterly inane, gutter-level, violent lyrics. Howard Stern and his grade-school-level obsession with all things crude and imbecilic. MTV’s “Jackass.” Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” in which people are clueless as to when the War of 1812 took place.

For that matter, the movie “Clueless” of a few years back. Or “Dumb and Dumber.” Actors such as Will Farrell, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and others who specialize in starring in a vacuous, obscene, and profanity-laced brand of “comedy” that bears no resemblance to the humor of such earlier-generation comedians as Lucile Ball, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Burnett, Don Knotts, and many others.

The crowd of vapid, directionless “party girls”: Paris, Britney, Lindsay—famous and envied for contributing absolutely nothing of any lasting value to the world in which they live.

We live in a society where real intelligence: “being smart,” knowing things, is considered by the young as a stigma. A high GPA is for eggheads and losers. Acceptance comes through winning at how much booze you can hold as it’s poured through a funnel.

We live in a society, far too many members of which prize the hedonistic, self-indulgent, and peer-pressure-driven pursuit of instant sensory gratification over cultivation of thought, maturation, and personal development.

It’s embarrassing to realize that my dad fought in World War II to provide the freedom for today’s generation to prize stupidity and cluelessness. It’s embarrassing that studies show a steady decline in I.Q.’s in each younger generation. It’s embarrassing for me as an editor to receive manuscripts from college-educated writers who struggle to express themselves on a third-grade level.

Many books survey this bleak landscape, among them The Dumbest Generation, by Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein, and The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby.

Religion, my frame of reference in this blog, has contributed its own share to the ascending anti-intellectualism—consider the “know nothing” authoritarianism and chauvinistic misogyny seen in secretive cults; the heavy-handed discouragement of open questioning and investigation of truth in many churches; or the macho-istic love of guns and war and strutting toughness, by those whose Leader is presumably the Prince of Peace.

Yes, I know that the Bible says that as we race to the final act in history’s sad drama, we’ll see a “time of trouble such as never was.” All the “straws in the wind” are flying in that direction: global warming, increasing religio-political devotion to coercive legislation of morality and behavior while steadily stripping away personal freedoms, an economy teetering on the raw edge of sudden collapse, a world running out of resources, the rich getting richer and the poor even poorer, and the deification of dumbness—the topic of this post.

The world we once knew, friends and neighbors, is no more and never will be again. It’s time to brace ourselves for the unraveling of social order, the disintegration of a tired and misery-racked world, even as it morphs into a reality beyond anything Orwell’s 1984 or Ellen White’s The Great Controversy could fully detail.

Convinced of this, I choose to give the cult of dumbness a wide berth. I’m dismayed that so many accept—even take a baseless pride in—ignorance and intellectual laziness as a perfectly fine way to live. I’ve seen and heard enough superficiality and mindless dreck to last me several lifetimes.

Death and depression and disease and divorce and discouragement and . . . dumbness. Anything in common here? A clue? Yet another word beginning with “d”. . .the name of the CEO of everything demonic and diabolical.

But please hold strong to your hope and courage. It may get worse before it gets better. But when it gets better, the positive will utterly eradicate the negative.

Check the final two verses of Revelation 22 now and then for the needed reminder of how the story ends.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Lara on May 17, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Yeah, what *you* said.


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