Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Mumford & Sons and Jane Eyre Have in Common

     As I mentioned in the February What I'm Into post, I recently read Rosalie de Rosset's Unseduced and Unshaken. The premise of the book is based upon dignity in a young woman's choices, but about half-way through the book, I found a chart that I loved. It made so much sense that I just had to share.

Popular Culture
Traditional / Folk Culture
1. Focuses on the new/recent.
1. Focuses on the timeless.
2. Discourages reflection.
2. Encourages reflection.
3. Pursued to kill time aimlessly.
3. Pursued thoughtfully.
4. Gives us what we want/tells us what we know.
4. Offers us what we could not have imagined.
5. Relies on instant comprehension.
5. Requires training; encourages patience.
6. Celebrates fame.
6. Celebrates giftedness.
7. Appeals to sentimentality.
7. Appeals to deeper, mature emotions.
8. Market driven.
8. Content and form governed by the timeless.
9. Leaves us where it found us.
9. Transforms our sensibilities.
10. Incapable of deep, sustained attention.
10. Capable of repeated, sustained attention.

     If you consider the implications of the chart, it makes sense that a band like Mumford & Sons, which has its roots in folk tradition, is becoming hugely popular. You can't listen to one of their songs just once and get everything it has to say. It is possible to listen to a song multiple times over, (deep, sustained attention) and still get something new out of it every time. There are countless literary allusions, Shakespeare, Plato, to name a few, that require a previous understanding, or some research to understand. On the other hand, it is quite easy to listen to a common pop song one time (such as Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber) and get the whole thing the first time. It leaves it where it found you.
     Jane Eyre is just one example of a classic literary work, but it does have at least those ten commonalities with Mumford & Sons if you consider the characteristics of the work. The best books are those that you can read again and again, and still walk away thoughtful, your sensibilities transformed, your mind churning.
     Here's what I love about the list: it isn't governed by genre, age, or author. A classic work can be a movie, a song, a book, a poem, as long as it fits within those characteristics. The same mediums that are used for popular culture are used for traditional and folk culture.
     Popular culture isn't bad for us, per say, but it shouldn't be our whole diet. Any nutritionist knows that a diet of junk food is bad for you, it's the same with what we read, watch, and listen to. If we want to be Christians who are thoughtful, constantly learning and seeking knowledge, we should desire to feed our hearts and minds with good food, food which appeals to deep, mature emotions, which encourages patience, which focuses on the timeless, which transforms our sensibilities.

Want suggestions? Here a few book and song selections which you might enjoy:
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. (Talk about repeated, sustained attention: I've been re-reading this books since I was a kid, and I'm still inspired every time I read them. Seriously.)
  • Ulysses by Josh Garrels. (This is a song that has major back story: Greek mythology anyone?)
  • Phantastes by George MacDonald. (I haven't re-read this one yet, but George MacDonald is deep as a well, and I've hardly begun plumbing the depths.)
  • Wise Old Owl by SHEL. (I'd been listening to this song for a couple of months before I went to my sister and said "OH!! I GET IT!" It's great to listen to, but it has a meaning too, if you can figure it out!)
  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. (I know, I need some non-fantasy/science fiction books. Hang in, I'm trying to get there.)
  • Silver by The Grey Havens. (I download this music on Noisetrade last week, and it's been stuck in my head ever since. This song has at least two literary illusion to some of my favorite books, so I knew it was a keeper.)
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. (Jane Austen is one of the best authors I know to expose human nature in an honest and yet non-preachy or judgemental way. It's simply true to life, and amusing in the meantime. Anything by her is a good bet, but this is one of my favorites.)
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (or anything by Christie, really. Her murder mysteries delve deep into the quirks of human nature and you'll walk away thinking hard!)
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. (I just finished this book last week and it has to be one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Sections of it have come to mind multiple times this week after reading and I already looked for it at my local Half Price Books. No luck, but I'm definitely buying this one.)
  • Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons (or The Cave, Babel, Hopeless Wanderer, etc, etc. )
What are some of your favorites that fit into the "Traditional / Folk" section? I'd love some new music, book, and movie suggestions!


  1. If you read "East of Eden," you'll understand "Timshel," too ;).

    1. case in point. Now I might have to, since that's one of my favorite songs by them. ;)



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