In consistency with my character, I finally caught up with something popular several years after its peak of popularity. Last night I watched the very first episode of Mad Men. I don’t know why I didn’t start watching this show earlier, but nevertheless, I’ve been hooked.
Today I watched the second episode and was stirred by Don Draper’s wife, Betty. Throughout the episode, she seemed precariously nervous about something: her numb hands and need for air on the drive home, staying up late watching her husband sleep, numb hands again while driving and crashing into a bird bad on someone’s front lawn, etc. She eventually sees a psychiatrist to figure out what might be wrong with her (after several visits with a couple different doctors who examined what might be physically wrong with her).
While she sought to “fix the problem,” Don was stuck with an advertising question, “What do women want?” It seems as though the question was particularly troublesome to him simply because of his wife’s numbing-hands problem, which I think was actually a hint to him that would have answered his question. Since there was nothing physically wrong with her, there was something physiologically wrong with her. Don eventually said to her that he always assumed unhappy people went to see psychiatrists. He reminded her of their children and possessions and wondered out loud why she couldn’t be happy. Her answer? “Of course I’m happy.”
What advertising has been good at doing (to all of us) is, on one level, make consumers think that if they’ll purchase that new item – whatever it may be – they’ll attain happiness and internal stability. If Don’s wife was truly happy, she wouldn’t be having numb hands and she’d be able to sleep at night. What neither her nor her husband realized was that her “happiness” was a false pretense. They were made to believe that she was truly happy since they had all the signs of stability: A loving spouse, a house, a car, and children. And when I think about my own insecurities (i.e. Am I going to be able to take care of myself? Can I be a loving husband and father to my future wife and children? Do I have what it takes to provide for myself and a family?), I realize that nothing I own could ever bring about that stability.
Whether we’re consumers or anti-consumers, we’re still seeking stability. We’re making choices and living a certain lifestyle that we believe, when it’s all said and done, we’ll have that deep, internal peace that can’t be broken. But what I think we don’t realize is that we live in a material world seeking a non-material entity: Peace. Peace within ourselves, between each other, and so on. So if we can’t find it here in this material world, then were is it?
“Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus says in John 15:5. I daresay what we seek – whether we’re aware that we’re seeking or not – rests within that particular Something (or rather, Someone) beyond this world. But the great news about all this is: He’s no longer “beyond” this world; He’s always been within it. And more precisely, He’s always been within us.
Yes, I understand this might sound “old hat” to many Christians. It seems the same for me as well. But it’s a wonderful reminder to know that what we have with God through Jesus is something that no one or no thing can ever offer us: Stability. Peace. Joy. True happiness. That’s what is inherent to God and if He lives within us, then it’s what is inherent to our lives when we let Him live through us.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” – John 16:33. Or, as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” (Psalm 23:1). After watching a TV show set in a time not so different from our own day, I realize that no matter where I go or what I do, I already have all I could ever want.