Up or Down

To say that I wasn’t a gifted math student would be correct in a hysterically funny way. But a few terms and concepts did stick with me, and while math and human behavior are totally different from one another, sometimes there are carryovers.

For example, the idea of the lowest common denominator is used in adding fractions. Instead of saying 4/8ths or 2/4ths, we say ½. It’s the lowest denominator to express that ratio. Then, if we have another fraction to add, it’s easy if that fraction also has the number 2 as its denominator, even if it is 5/2nds.

Anyway, when it comes to us humans, I’m afraid there is a different kind of lowest common denominator. You can usually find it on TV, with videos of men being struck in the nether regions by various objects, or in the head by a bat that was aimed at a piñata.

Silliness and slapstick are pretty harmless, I guess, but the things on TV that bother me are the Springer/ Povich/ Cunningham/ Wilkow type shows that celebrate the stupidest and most immoral people on the planet, who play out their sick dramas in front of a cheering studio audience.

Who slept with who’s mother, sister, father, dog… and who the baby’s father might be are daily themes. Maybe worst of all is the disingenuousness with which the hosts seem to truly care.

But, like any lowest common denominator, it’s as low a form of entertainment as there is, and human nature makes us somehow enjoy watching people who make us feel like saints and geniuses. It’s like our very own living room freak show.

There are a lot of things in life that pull us down to a low level, but just as many that can raise us up. A good comedy or dramatic movie or TV show, or… and this may sound crazy… but a book, or book on audio can raise us up and broaden our horizons.

Public Radio and TV have much to inform us, as does the library and, interestingly enough, the Bible. Even for non-believers, the Bible can be very interesting and is filled with lessons.

Movies and video games that feature realistic scenes of murder and mayhem don’t elevate us. Neither do “flame-thrower” political programs on radio or TV.

I think maybe we could all benefit from thinking more about what it is we’re consuming in our leisure time, and opt for things that are either neutral or positive in some way. Then we won’t feel quite so bad about laughing when the toddler hits grandpa in that special place with a baseball.


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