Pastor’s little helper?

PeaceBang is not unreasonably sour about iPods (“Mother’s Little Helper“) after reading an unthink-piece by and about plugged-in soccer moms in Newsweek. PB paints the iPod as audio Valium, and perhaps that’s fitting in their case.

My experience is that is more like audio cannabis, if the 60s hype of “enhancing experience” is even half true. (Not that I would know, since I’ve always considered expensive, appetite-inducing, smoky, and illegal to be a quadrupal threat.)

I don’t have an iPod, but an MP3 player which amounts to the same thing. Plus mine has an audio recorder, which might be helpful if I was preaching on a regular basis.

As it is, my audio player serve four basic functions:

  1. Like the soccer moms, I play happy 80s alt-standards. Usually to block out the vulgar, screaming, mutually-berating middle-schoolers that I must share my morning commute with. Otherwise, I tend to harbor nihilistic visions of the future. A dose of They Might Be Giants or the B-52s chills me right out. Or the weekly broadcast of Radio Havano Kubo, in Esperanto. Really.
  2. A few pieces of chanted Lutheran service music. At the very least, the Te Deum and Psalm 114, sung to the Tonus Pereginus.
  3. For the most part, I keep up with news and views, via podcasts, that have no place in broadcast radio. Here are my favorite two.
  4. Most of my MP3 player, however, is dedicated to an absurd combination of songs that evoke the Pedro Almodovar classic, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. These are songs, sung by women who are just hanging on to their sanity, have deluded or misplaced ideas of living (especially romance), revel in destruction, have retreated to an unhealthy and self-deluding state of anaesthesia, or (more positively) have rejected the systems that oppress them and are breaking out. I suppose there’s a feminist statement in there somewhere, but it boils down to me liking these vocalists. Lots of Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Sinead O’Connor, Bjork, Indigo Girls, Laurie Anderson, Dolly Parton, Tori Amos. The scant few men singing on my MP3, interestingly enough, are almost all gay: Morrissey (or is he? hmm), Erasure, Jimmy Somerville. I was going to say something profound about the link between Christian faith and absurdity, but I think I’ve just shown what a big homosexual I am. Hmm.

So, in a word, an audio player is what you make of it, not what it makes of you.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


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