All posts by chadstembridge

On the Importance of Analyzing Culture

Those of us in the Western world are living in a time & culture which would be easy to analyze, answer, and shape. Most of us aren’t concerned about mere existence and survival.

Yet we often choose to consume culture & let our lives be overtaken with its worries.

It’s important to be aware of the context of culture: ideas, worldviews, philosophies, morals, and the physical outworking of those things. People do not change their morals or worldview merely by single contacts with those different from their own, but rather through prolonged and consistent experiences that confirm each other over time.

That’s why media is powerful. Media is both a reflection of culture, and a catalyst. That makes it both one of the most easy and the most difficult parts of culture to analyze.

What Analysis Is

We can examine things like art on a deeper level than simply seeing whether Scripture speaks to it or not. We can ask of media: Is this good or bad art, and why? We can compare it to the nature of God and Truth. By analyzing an aspect or product of culture and its context and worldview, we can understand why Jazz is confusing, Picasso is bizzare, and villians are glorified in certain films.

To analyze art and media, I think, is simply to examine the story being told on a deeper level, being aware of the philosophies that drive it.

Reasons for Analyzing Culture

  1. It prevents you from mindlessly consuming and accepting whatever ideas come your way.
  2. It makes you more aware that every person has a worldview which comes out in all he touches — especially art.
  3. It allows you to understand the context of a culture, and compare it to absolutes.
  4. It allows you to understand the ways a particular piece of art not only reflects but influences culture, and possibly why the art can be labeled as either good or bad craftsmanship in itself .
  5. It lets you understand the shifting waves of culture around you compared to the foundation of Christ on which you stand.
  6. It gives you the ability to speak to the context of the culture, and adapt your life and methods to best answer the difficult issues of it — while not falling into the same ideaological traps (whether philisophically or artistically).
  7. It helps put aspects of life, particularly art, in context and helps sharpen the understanding of what is good art and how to make it.

The Un-Reasons to Analyze Culture

These are not good reasons for analyzing the art & media of a culture:

  1. To be contrary — to criticize anything & everything that might come out of culture or be widely accepted by it.
  2. As an excuse for consuming culture.
  3. To construct conspiracy theories.

Should We Merely Analyze?

Art can be enjoyed, as with any other aspect of culture — like food, holidays, etc.

Analysis is great for building an awareness of and ability to answer a culture, but does it contribute anything useful?

I would say that reviewing/analyzing culture is not equal to active/proactive contributions to it. Reviewing is merely reactive commenting, which is much easier to do, but makes little to no impact.

Analysis is a tool to discover and ponder ideas contained by culture & media, and the most powerful way to practically utilize it is to help us discern the direction of a society and purposefully move ahead of trends. It is useful for calling attention to danger, but that is not its primary use if we are to have a positive and definite influence.

We must shape culture, not merely react to it.

So should we listen to those who merely analyze culture, but don’t show an inclination to actually shape it?

Final Thought: A Renewed Mind

A while back, I saw Romans 12:2 in a new light.

“Do not be conformed to this world…”

After noticing a particular word choice in a German translation, I dug a little deeper. Often we think of this phrase to mean “don’t act in the same way as the sinners around you.”

The Luther translation reads: “Und stellt euch nicht dieser Welt gleich…” or, “And have not the same mind as this world…”

The Greek word here for “world” is αἰών, which carries the meaning of “age” (as in the “spirit of the age” — or zeitgeist).

Thus: instead of having the same mind & living out the ideas of the culture & age in which we live, we are to be renewed in mind by the Spirit.

This renewed mind allows us to look around at the culture and its facets, aware of its philosophies — while never being shaken or moved from the foundations of absolutes and Truth.

Keep Your Day Job

Dear Visionaries

I’m predominately a visionary, with some steady mixed in — but sometimes I wonder if I’m actually not visionary/command, with some laziness that smacks of steady. (As a child, I tended to take charge and be imaginiative.) Either way, I definitely have visionary in me, even if I’m only now rediscovering it with the help of my wife.

So, visionaries: let’s talk about the journey.

We tend to feel very strongly about our dreams, sometimes (often?) to the exclusion of reality. My dream, which has ebbed and flowed and which I’ve wandered away from but always come back to, has been filmmaking. At 18, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. Since then, I’ve gone through several stages.

5 Stages of My Journey

2006-2007 // Daydreaming. I aspired to be a filmmaker, to change the world, to be a great person. I played with cameras and held a part-time job.

2008-2009 // Learning by Doing. I tried to become serious about film, and became increasingly dissatisfied with dabbling in it while working my part-time job.

2010-2011 // Sink or Swim. Quit my job and moved to start a business with a friend. Both very visionary things to do, as my bank account could testify from this timeframe.

2012-2013 // Complacent. God brought my path across a good contract in marketing. I contented myself with doing video work fairly regularly, and didn’t pursue outside learning or experience opportunities very much.

2014-???? // Sink or Swim 2. I got married after a 6 month courtship/engagement, moved, and tried establishing my business in a place which I came to realize (after the fact) didn’t have a market. All very visionary things to do.

Dear fellow visionaries, here are some life lessons you can take note of:

Attitude

Passivity, apathy, and laziness can look an aweful lot like steadiness in a man, but the test is in whether he buckles down and does the work necessary to make things happen. It’s easy to be content with letting things happen to you; it’s risky to take initiative and live without trying to please everyone (especially critics).

Pride & Humility

Marketing does not have to be about self-promotion and arrogance. I was afraid to sell myself because I, in my pride, didn’t want to look arrogant. I prevented myself from learning how to effectively communicate and gain work.

Finances

Having $150 in your bank account is okay when all you pay is car insurance and maintainence. Living off of a dwindling savings account is not okay when you’re married, paying all expenses, and/or have a car that could die at any moment. Also, committing to living without debt is absolutely worth it, but requires a conscious split from the mindset of American culture.

And now we come to it:

The Day Job.

My work right now: I’m a web developer during the day, and in my free time it’s my job to change the world.

I don’t like to identify myself as a web developer, but I have to admit… That’s what pays the bills right now. I’ve spent a lot of time lately building websites, which is never something I really aspired to do.

But deep down, I’m a filmmaker. It’s my business, my dream. In this season of life — as I’m building my studio, marketing, and gaining connections — spending time behind a camera or in Final Cut often has to take second priority to work that puts food on the table.

Visionaries: don’t be afraid of the day job. I can think of one good friend right now who’s in a similar place as me, and I think he’s handling it quite well. He’s diligently moving toward his launching into his vision, while making his day job as meaningful as possible. (Dominic, you’ve handled it better than I have!)

One of the hardest thing for a visionary to grasp is the fact that journeys take time. Comprehending this in a culture of Instant is more difficult, but it’s something you have to do. Dreams and visions take time to reach. Enjoy the scenery as you walk to the beginning of your vision’s journey, but be purposeful about doing the work necessary both to launch that vision and to ensure it doesn’t fall flat due to apathy, dirth, or fear.

Risk is okay. Risk that recklessly sacrifices basic responsibilities of life is not okay.

You might have to stock shelves during the day while changing the world in your free time. You might have to do that for a long time – maybe not. And, by the way, if anyone tells you it’s impossible to pursue a strong vision, work for a living, and lead a strong relationship with a wife and family, they’re lying. You’re a visionary: figure out how to involve and collaborate with those around you, and you’ll never have to worry about straining those intimate relationships.

It’s a risky thing to step out and be a visionary. And it’s completely worth it. There’s a culture and world around you that needs some more Light and Truth in it. Go forth and do great things!

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What Truly Lasts

By Tyler

Dedicated to Karie Blair who passed into the arms of Jesus on the first of June 2014.

Life is a vapor, here and then past.
I think it’s forever, but it flies by so fast.
Moments slip by, used once and then gone.
A new set of chances are given at dawn
To reach out to someone, to show love that lasts.
But often I miss them as my life speeds past.

A number of days – just a few years.
I live for myself, no concerns and no fears.
Compassion is missing; my hand for the poor
Is stuck in my pocket afraid to do more.
I meet friends for fun times and share a few cheers,
When what I should do is shed a few tears.

Moments are priceless, so learn from the past.
Reach out to someone to show love that lasts.
Realize the help I could give to someone;
Rather than seeking to just have some fun.
Life is a vapor, here and then past.
I choose now to live life for what truly lasts.