What astonished me was reading The Simpson’s and Philosophy, and learned that even one of the most popular television shows sheds light on the ways of life when we pay close attention and analyze the episodes. It is true that because the Simpson’s are meant for entertainment purposes, the writers put the extreme views in the characters. Here is a corresponding excerpt from the book:

“Though familiar to most, the commonplace quality of The Simpson’s’ characters and setting may lead some to conclude that the show has little to offer educationally speaking. People may question whether important truths could issue from such a pedestrian context. Of course, if truths cannot be ordinary, then The Simpson’s might not offer much. However, it seems that oftentimes it is the ordinary truths that elude us. In Being and Time (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), German philosopher Martin Heidegger demonstrates that what is the most immediate is not always the best understood. Heidegger reveals that we are often the most confused about what is closest to us, including who and how we are. Though it exaggerates things in order to achieve its satirous effect, The Simpson’s isn’t far off the mark in its rendering of contemporary life. Arguably, the effect of satire cannot be accomplished without such accuracy. People must recognize what is being satirized in order for the effect to be achieved.”

In the book, The Simpson’s and Philosophy, the authors compare all of the main characters to different philosophers as well as different ways of viewing life through the various episodes that the Simpson’s have produced. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who has any interest in philosophy whatsoever, as well as to all of the Simpson’s fans. The following is another excerpt taken from the book that describes a materialistic person to the extreme:

“Mr. Burns has three problems that stand in the way of his happiness which are an integral part of understanding his psyche. First, he is a creature of gross excess. Everything about him is big: his house, his fortune, his power (and abuse of that power), and his ambition. As Springfield’s richest man, he is “free to wallow in his own crapulence,” as Mr. Burns gleefully admits. Although there is a rich tradition in philosophy that condemns such excess and advocates a life of moderation, surely the reader does not need the philosophic canon to see that none of Mr. Burns’s excesses bring him much happiness. Despite being surrounded by people, he is alone. Despite his vast wealth, he wants ever more. Second, because he sees everything in abstract terms, because he sees everything as a symbol of something else, he attaches unnecessary importance to everything around him and does not enjoy things for what they are. In “Team Homer,” winning a worthless bowling trophy is much more important to him than the sweet, albeit momentary, pleasure of a group of jocular friends enjoying a game, bonding as a team, and drinking Duff Beer. Instead, winning the trophy becomes a singular achievement, and the problem with this approach is that when everything matters, nothing gets a chance to really matter. Mr. Burns sees everything in a symbolic fashion. He sees everything in an important symbolic way. As such, everything has the same level of importance, and so in the end everything bores him. But this problem is common. We are all guilty, to a greater or lesser extent, of attaching ridiculous importance to the events in our own lives. It is often amazing to become aware of the unimportant things about which we become angry or glad, and equally amazing to recognize the truly important things to which we are indifferent. But Burns’s problems are parasitic upon a third, more fundamental problem. This problem is the symbolism that he attaches to everything; the result is that the original thing that is symbolized ceases to exist, at least in any pleasurable way. Unfortunately for Mr. Burns, it is the original thing that he truly needs for happiness. In an affluent modern society, man has more ‘things’ than ever. We are encouraged to mentally alienate ourselves from reality. We are being taught to see things as symbols and are being trained to use them for effect, and never for themselves. It is Mr. Burns’s exclusive use of symbolism that, in the end, fails him in his quest for happiness. There is a widely held conception of happiness that explains happiness has two components. The first is the occurrence of a certain set of emotions experienced during, following, or in anticipation of a markedly favorable set of circumstances. The second is dispositional; in order to be happy it is necessary that one like, or be satisfied with, those parts of one’s total life pattern and circumstances that one thinks are important, without which one would be substantially different. But of course we all know that Mr. Burns wishes that his life were substantially different. He is permanently in search of a new life for himself, whether it be as an athlete, a governor, an innocent child, or whatever. Whenever Burns has an idea to improve his life, it is always to become something; or, more accurately, to become a certain type of thing. Nothing is enjoyable or funny or desirable to him unless it can be seen as standing for or representing something else, something bigger and more important. The speculation that Mr. Burns’s representationalism is the product of Satan’s attempt to cut him off from his humanity.”

Mr. Burns clearly represents everybody’s natural sin-filled life. Time after time, we get caught up always looking out for ourselves and not anyone else. Is there any wonder why we too can be surrounded by others and yet feel alone? Whether you believe this or not, God has made us to be together. The book of Acts describes the first Church where everyone’s need was met by one another. When I talk about need, I mean the bare necessities of life, which are clothing, food, shelter, and education. Everything else would go under the want category. In America, we take everything for granted; we get to choose the size of our house, the type of transportation, the latest fashion designs, electronics, and tremendous amounts of different types of groceries. When we take everything for granted, we miss out on what really is important in our lives. I have gotten private comments that inform me that I have a tendency to be “too religious” in my entries. I believe that the main problem of having people giving that type of opinion is the culture we live in, which I will be discussing more about in the near future. For right now, let me finish this Simpson’s journal entry with one final excerpt from the book and my response:

“The culture we live in today, especially the media, portrays Christians as people having “blind faith.” Ned Flanders from The Simpson’s is an excellent example of being a Christian to the extreme. Ned seems to be what philosophers call a divine command theorist, since he thinks that morality is a simple function of God’s divine command; to him, “morally right” means simply “commanded by God,” and “morally wrong” means simply “forbidden by God.” Consequently, Ned consults with Reverend Lovejoy or prays directly to God Himself to resolve the moral dilemmas he faces. Thus, Ned apparently believes he can find solutions to his moral problems not by thinking for himself, but by consulting the appropriate divine command. His faith is as blind as it is complete, and he floats through life on a moral cruise control, with his ethical dilemmas effectively pre-resolved.”

I can only pray that I will have the kind of faith Ned Flanders’ has. God has given us many gifts, and among those are His Spirit, His Words, and our brains. God has given our brains to think and make choices on our own, that is what free will is all about. The Reverends, Pastors, and just about any elder from the Church are there to help people grow stronger in faith. Every dilemma we face, have already been faced, and the only way we will feel alone in our struggles is if we choose to be alone. The Bible was written and the Spirit given to guide us on this journey of life. Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ had gone through everything imaginable, so that when we go through hard times, He is there to carry us through. There are also people of the Church to reassure us that in the darkest times in life, there is the light of love to keep us going.

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