The Wisdom in Crowds

Starter jackets. When I was in the sixth grade everybody wanted a big, poofy, Starter jacket. I remember sitting in math class and seeing Brad S. (not to be confused with Brad A.) across the aisle, decked out in his Cleveland Browns Starter. Boys were in awe.

Then, sure as the sunrise, they started appearing on my other classmates. I remember seeing those jackets, the zenith of sixth grade cool, and thinking, “No. In the name of all that is holy, no. I swear on my very blood that I will neither own nor wear a Starter jacket. Here I stand, I can do no other.” Those might not be my exact words, but the sentiment was the same, and it was not an isolated incident. I did not, and still do not, like “trend-setters” leading me around by the nose.It is with this cock-eyed background that I watched the video of Eugene Peterson and Bono talking about the Psalms. I honestly wanted to dislike the video. I wanted to dislike it because nearly everyone on my Twitter feed had gushed about it. I wanted to dislike it because it was a video with two “big names.” Throw in the fact that I don’t share Bono’s enthusiasm for The Message as a translation, and I was charged up with negativity–basically a free floating electron with whiskers.
I can say with a clear conscience that I remain a man of principle regarding poofy Starter jackets. In spite of my best (i.e. worst) efforts, however, the Psalms video is a different story. I had settled on ignoring the thing altogether, but so dang many people I respect took pleasure in the thing. I caved.
Once I started watching the video I was won over quickly. The visual of Peterson’s home coupled with its lakeside setting hooked me. An early scene showed him computer-side in his generously windowed office, facing a still, blue-gray lake and an expanse of evergreens. The setting makes Peterson’s productivity even more impressive, because I’m not sure if I would get any writing done there. Plenty of staring probably, but work? No promises.

The production was great as well, and the conversation was at least interesting. I felt compelled to confess my fondness. I even joined the tweet parade. There was a bit here and there that I didn’t agree with–Bono’s critique of Christian art, for instance. Andrew Peterson articulated my thoughts: “…the fact is, there’s TONS of honest art by Christians. Lots of it. It just isn’t mainstream.” Jeffrey Overstreet also offers a good semi-critical perspective of the video here. Still, it was a net positive experience for me.

Why? Because the video did something all good media should do: challenge people to look at themselves more deeply. In my case it meant I need to ask what this negative-to-positive pole flip says about me. Why was I so ready to be a curmudgeon? It’s not like I was unaware of this reflex. As I said, I can trace it to the sixth grade and probably even earlier.

Unsurprisingly, I think the root of my problem is pride. I don’t want “their” influence, whoever they may be. As much as it pains me to admit, I’ve got that the hipster reflex. I try to keep it buried but it keeps poking it’s mustachioed nose up through the dirt. I want to discover good things on my own, not under the guidance of a tidal wave of tweets.

So to Bono, Eugene Peterson, and the innumerable tweeters who put me onto this video, thank you. You’ve done me a huge favor because you showed me something good, and you’ve also given me a dose of humility. It’s ok for me to like something that’s genuinely good, even if everyone else and their brother “got there first.”

Still a big ‘no’ on the poofy jackets, though.


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