In 1843, the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard published his most famous work, Fear and Trembling. Virtually anyone who has taken Western Philosophy 101 has heard of, if not read, the book. I first read it as a college sophomore. It is a difficult book.
Kierkegaard begins with four different depictions of the same story, the very story we read from Genesis this morning, the story we call “The Binding of Isaac.” Four times, Kierkegaard takes us through Abraham’s excruciating journey to Mt. Moriah. Four times he imagines Abraham tenderly kissing Sarah goodbye. Four times he describes Abraham holding the hand of his trusting little boy, guiding Isaac up the mountain. And four times he depicts a father raising the knife over his son.
Don Draper’s life isn’t as well put together as he’d have you believe.
For six seasons, the AMC series Mad Men has been one of the best shows on television. Mad Men chronicles the lives of Madison Avenue ad man Don Draper, his family, and his co-workers. Aesthetically, the show is a joy to watch. For an hour each Sunday evening, the viewer is transported back to the 1960s.
Mad Men’s characters appear suave, brilliant, and in command. But though the clothing, dialogue, and cinematography of Mad Men are lovely, in truth the lives of Don Draper and the other characters are not. Their debonair sophistication is only an outward appearance. Don and the other characters deal with addiction, urban blight, crass materialism, dog-eat-dog ambition, religious cults (yes, religious cults), and more.
Imagine the food court at a shopping mall. It could be the Galleria here in Houston. People are munching on their Chick-Fil-A and Sbarro pizza. Hordes of shoppers pass by, averting their gazes from making accidental eye contact with anyone else. Others sit, drone-like, abiding in the crowded anonymity. There is plenty of noise, but it is senseless babble. It would be difficult to find a more disconnected group of people. In fact, the only thing binding them together is the shared exchange of money for commodities. Their only relationship is utilitarian. There is no shared joy, no empathy, no spirit between them.