How Much Guilt with that Pleasure, Sir?

There’s an interesting conversation-starter over at ProfHacker: “Open Thread Wednesday: Guilty Pleasures?” In a fun spirit, author George Williams asks us to write about the food, books, movies, or whatever that we indulge in occasionally, but that we’re kind of embarrassed about. It’s a nice little post, and I’m interested to see what comments show up. (Only one so far: young adult vampire novels. Classic.)

But: it’s interesting to consider this from two different perspectives: fandom and spirituality.

I think that a common experience of fans who interact online is a gradual lowering of any worry that outsiders see their fandom as overblown, too-geeky, out-of-touch, etc. It’s freeing to realize that I’m not the only one who reads books on Tolkien’s languages (I prefer Sindarin to Quenya, thank you very much), reads Lostpedia after every episode, and so on. I think this freeing of the self from an unfounded cultural consensus (“Star Trek fans are too geeky, except for the new movie) is a good thing.  So the concept of the “guilty pleasure,” from this perspective, seems kind of sad, like stepping back and saying, “Even though I really like this, I realize that I’m supposed to not like it too much, so I’ll say here that I don’t really like it too much, even though I really do like it and will continue liking it. Do you like it too?”

That’s my first reaction. But then a second reaction comes, from the spiritual part of me (in my case, Christian). When anyone says, “I purposefully decide to put worship and service to God above my other pursuits,” that inherently means that occasionally, if I choose to dive full-force into any kind of pleasure, it can be distracting me from what I claim is my primary purpose, and primary pleasure: knowing God. And in that sense, pleasures can indeed be “guilty,” if they draw us away too often from the divine.

Don’t read that the wrong way: I’m all in favor of seeing culture as a place where we learn more about humanity, spirit, and things like Truth that get capital letters. Like Mark Driscoll, I don’t advocate that people with religious views eschew fandom. Quite the opposite–my spirituality is the heart of why I like shows like Star Trek and Lost. What I am saying is that my thoughts about God caused me to second-guess my first reaction to the ProfHacker article: first I thought, “Guilty pleasures? Let’s be people who enjoy pleasures without the need to pretend we feel guilty about them!” But then my second thought was, “But wait, self, are there places in your life where you actually should feel guilty about any of the pleasures mentioned in that article?” It’s a moment of quick self-checkery, quiet introspection. And I like those moments.

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