Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

I write barely in advance of the witching hour when the Academy of Motion Pictures, a name more revered than the National Academy of Science, hands out its immortal trophies.

The ritual polishes off a drum roll that has lasted for weeks. If you haven't been asked whether you prefer "The Hurt Locker" to "Avatar" for best picture, you should feel socially insecure.

In case it's not crystal clear, I'm not a fan. The reason I mention it is because the Oscar season runs in rough symmetry with Lent and Easter. At the risk of concocting some direct contrasts rather than reporting on them, I'd suggest the following.

The Oscars epitomize the triumph of glamor and hubris served up by products made by their own hands in fierce competition with one another and ultimately aimed at profit.

All of which contrasts obscenely with the themes of the Christian season when such counter cultural rubrics as repentence, humility and, ultimately, self-sacrifice move through worship and practice.

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Once upon a time, I suppose the time from Ash Wednesday until Easter were at the forefront of the Western world's consciousness to somewhat the same degree as the attention now paid to the adoration of Hollywood's re-enactment of its own triumphs.

In the popular lingo, of course, Academy Awards night is an innocent distraction from the woes of 10 percent unemployment and a nation's lack of confidence in its government. Good clean fun in which we can be vicarious players.

Spoil sport me would argue that the public has been largely gulled into a celebration of narcissism just as it is sometimes duped into admiring the very institutions and personalities that do them most harm.

Lent focuses on ourselves, our failures and our admission that the fruits of the ego, no matter how beautiful and alluring, will not solve our problems. It looks to a solution that doesn't discard our accomplishments as worthless but recognizes dependency -- that awful word in a society that esteems entrepreneurialship -- as the way to salvation.

The colossal promotion and excitement generated by Oscar night has grown at the same time that attention to Lent and Easter has waned. Its waning doesn't mean it's gone or that it is less significant. But there has been a reverse pattern going on. Though no firm conclusion can be derived from that, it does suggest in rather graphic terms where we are as a country in trouble.

But given the choice between salvation rendered through suffering and death and a bright shining Oscar -- is there a contest in a country presumably hungering for "answers"?


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