Stranger than paradise?
Carolyn Arends, writing an article titled "When God Wears a Costume" (Christianity Today, January 8, 2014), tells of being a teenager babysitting a 2-year-old girl squirming in a high chair and whom she tried to pacify by holding up the little girl's laminated placemat featuring a photo of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and the following dialogue took place:
"Is this a picture of Donald and Daisy Duck?" I asked.Ms. Arends says that she's been reflecting on Laura's pragmatism as a toddler already capable of offering a no-nonsense view of the world, inadvertently providing an example "of what sociologist Philip Rieff and philosopher Allan Bloom both" termed a "low symbolic hedge," i.e., a maze formed with hedges, such that a low one would be too easily seen through and solved. One need not use imagination to find one's way, so imagination remains undeveloped. Thus, because "our culture lacks potent symbols" and has merely Mickey Mouse symbols, we suffer a paucity of imagination.
"No," she giggled.
"Is it Goofy and Pluto?"
"Nuh-uh!" she squealed.
"Well, who are they?" I asked, gearing up for the inevitable right-answer celebration. But her reply caught me off guard.
"Strangers in costumes."
Well, maybe, but there's a sense in which that two-year-old toddler Laura was using her own burgeoning imagination to demystify a mundane reality behind a prominent, powerful cultural image.
The kid deserves some praise . . .