Our zeitgeist reveals a sad cultural malaise
I love to learn new words. So when the term zeitgeist cropped up in a recent news story I immediately sought to find the meaning. Dictionary.com defines zeitgeist as a German noun that means the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time. Google has adopted the word to title it’s ongoing charting of the search patterns of internet users around the world. Each calendar year produces the “Year End Google Zeitgeist” which, according to Google spokespeople, speaks to our collective consciousness. After reviewing the list I would suggest it reflects our collective cultural unconsciousness. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry or alternate the two responses.
If I hired the guy who does the movie trailers my thoughts would be something like this…(dramatic music)…
In a world full of suffering, genocide, hunger, loneliness, broken families, spiritual longing, and fear…millions of cyber warriors search for answers to save the planet. Nothing could ever prepare you for what these tattered legions decided was the most important search topic of this year.
Pardon the gap. I had to take a moment to take a knee and catch my breath. Paris Hilton was, inexplicably, number one for the most typed in search item on Google news. That was the stunning revelation for me. I would have thought that Paris Hilton searches would happen at the regular site and more serious inquiries would occupy the news site. Wrong.
Here are the top 10 news searches of 2006.
1. paris hilton
2. orlando bloom
5. hurricane katrina
7. martina hingis
9. 2006 nfl draft
10. celebrity big brother 2006
A few serious concerns managed to work their way onto the list. Cancer concerns edged out Martina Hingis but could not pass Orlando Bloom. Autism searches were slightly more prevalent than people seeking NFL draft info. I don’t want to make this part of my grumpy old man series from earlier this year but I have to admit this list is a little depressing. Perhaps the bleakness of the news drives people to escapist entertainment. But I keep coming back to one huge concern.
I know that millions of people search for more important info than the list detailed above on Google and other internet search engines. I regularly get comments from readers who “googled” certain terms and they find my website. So I don’t want to overreact to this list. But Paris Hilton?
Here is my hope and prayer for 2007. I don’t expect that any of these searches will be number one in the next zeitgeist list. But I do hope that millions will take the time to search for topics like these…
10. How can I find significance?
9. How can I find joy and contentment?
8. What happens after I die?
7. What really matters in this life?
6. How can I make a difference?
5. How can I find strength to endure trials?
4. Can faith help my family?
3. Is the Bible relevant today?
2. Who is Jesus Christ?
1. What does that mean to me?
Even the men who followed Jesus for His three years of ministry had to answer many of the questions above. Jesus asked numbers one and two directly in this account from the Gospel of Matthew.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them,
And that is the question that all of us must answer. If I could give you any gift this Christmas I would love to give you the ability to consider the claims of Christ without the bias and baggage of bad experiences. There are people who have damaged the cause of Christ because of their false teachings, sin, and ungodly behavior. People have been deeply wounded by people who loudly lift the banner of Christ. I can not deny that fact. But that does not change the fact that I must answer this question.
“Who do you say I am?”
Peter responded to the question.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”
I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I believe that Jesus became flesh and came to earth on this event that most of us call Christmas. I know that belief has changed my life. I encourage you to consider the question. A relationship with Jesus is worth the search.