Saturday, October 16, 2010

Questions, questions

My entire family went to a table quiz last night. Well, when it's a fund raiser for the local scout troop and you have three sons in it you really don't have much choice!

We had a great time. The three older boys went off to a table with some other friends and my wife and I plus two of her friends made up another. Table quizes are such fun … the head-scratching when you don't have a clue; the groans when you get something right that you absolutely knew (especially when you knew, but everyone else at the table swore blind you were wrong, only to be proven right later – a very hollow victory indeed!); and the cheers when you get a tough one right – particularly when it was a wild guess!

We did all right on the final score – we placed fourth overall (one or two of those points I was out-voted on would have made all the difference, but of course I was too much of a gentleman to point that out!). The round that really killed our chances was the music round. They played the intro's from ten songs and you had to guess the name of the song from that. Four were 'oldies' and six were in the current top ten. We aced the oldies, but as for the 'newies', well … let's just say we showed our age on those ones …

Thinking back on it, though, that round really began to gnaw at me … not because it damaged our place in the rankings, but on general principles. I used to be a radio DJ and took a modest pride in the fact that I could identify almost any track in the charts from the first five to ten seconds of music. I wasn't perfect, but I was usually right around 95 percent of the time. I wasn't as hot on some of the older stuff … but on anything that had been a hit in the previous 20 to 30 years I reckon I could have gotten three out of four.

There's all kind of reasons why I've let this particular skill slip. It's a long time since I worked in radio. The different careers I've been involved with have kept me busy. My wife and I got into baby production modes and what used to be leisure time was transmuted into nappy-changing/story-reading/kissing-'owies'-on-the-knee time. All kinds of reasons and all of them good and reasonable. But …

The table near us had a group of secondary school age boys. They did terribly on the quiz. They were right at the bottom for for every round – they averaged only one or two questions right (and they cheered every time the scores were read out – they were aiming for the booby prize for coming last) … except for the music round. On that, they aced the chart songs and did ok on the oldies too (ironically, that round ruined their chances of finishing last, which they missed by only one point to a table of their peers!).

The point is, the music in the charts was important to them. I, on the other hand, not only didn't get the questions right, I had never even heard any of the songs before. And as for the names of the artists who performed them … well if you guessed that I had never heard of them either, well aren't you the perceptive one!

Now, I could just shrug my shoulders and think: 'What does it matter? I'm a middle aged priest … no one expects me to know this stuff … it's not like anyone else of my age at the quiz did any better … I'm kept busy enough as it it is … why should this worry me?'

Except it does. I still remember feeling put out at my parents and the other adults as a teenager when they were clueless about the things that mattered to me. More than put out – angry. Not caring about the things that were important to me was like saying I wasn't important. My response to their dismissal of the things that I valued was to rubbish the things they valued … they didn't care … they were out of touch with the world … they were a bunch of dinosaurs. And if I thought that at their age, there's a good chance that's what they're thinking now.

Maybe that doesn't matter too much for most adults … there's always going to be a generation gap. But what about those of us who get into a pulpit every week to preach a timeless message? Ministry in the modern age has enough problems as it is – do I really need the added bonus of looking like someone who is out of touch with the modern world in the first place? Would it really kill me to change the channel in the kitchen in the morning or in the car as I'm touring the parish?

Now there's a question I'll have to think long and hard about.


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