Power of the Ideal

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My wife and I were talking the other day about how culture has changed, and this actually turned into a follow-on conversation about the TV shows that primarily reside online today … Amazon, Netflix, etc. She commented that there is little to no resolution within the plots of the stories and that, for the most part, they are dark and the darkness carries forward from one episode to another.

As I thought more about this, I couldn’t help but think back to what I watched when I was a kid. TV was relatively new and the best sit-coms of the 60’s and 70’s primarily featured an idyllic view of life in America.

Those sit-coms are often criticized today as not being “true to life” or “real”; that they didn’t present a true picture of life in America. I have to agree that the picture painted by “Father Knows Best”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, “The Brady Bunch”, “Happy Days”, and others was not what many and, maybe, most of us experienced in our real lives at home, school or out in “The World”. However, I admit that not as a criticism of those shows but I would contend that they actually did us quite a bit of good.

The sit-coms of the 60’s and 70’s, while not being “true to life” for many, did deliver what I call the “Power of the Ideal.” They presented, in the same way that many books have done, an idealized way of looking at life, pain, struggle, and conflict within the context of laughter, hope, joy, and love. We watched these shows not to confirm what our lives were but to dream about what they could be.

All of the best stories you have ever read, heard, or seen resolve into something “higher” and “better” than what life actually may be. They bring hope. They encourage love. They foster joy.

Were the sit-coms of the 60’s and 70’s factually true, exceptionally well crafted, or artistically exquisite? The clear answer is “No.” But they made me laugh, brought a little joy to my daily struggles as a teenager, and enticed me with love. They gave me hope and encouraged me, even though I was unaware of it at the time, to be better … to be more than I was.

The value of these sit-coms was not their depiction of reality but their aspiration toward what could be and the hope brought by transcendent joy. If I ever need reminding of the hardness of life, all I need do is open my eyes and look around me. And, while it may be good for me to acknowledge and understand the reality around me, living in the darkness is not conducive to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control.

If you are anything like me, you don’t need to be reminded of the hardness, pain, suffering or injustice of life (we live in that world 24x7). And, if you are anything like me, you need to be enticed by what is possible in your life and in your relationships. We need some unreality from time to time to truly engage hope, joy and love; to remind us of what is possible; and, to encourage us to be more than we are. That, dear ones, is the “Power of the Ideal"; and, it is so very good for us!