Thursday, September 08, 2011

The trivial world of superlatives

Perhaps it's stating the obvious, but in a world where those who scream the loudest, behave the most bizarre, claim the most ridiculous get noticed, superlatives have lost their purpose. Take any adjective that ends in -est and you'll typically find in the midst of social discourse the most banal, irrelevant, trivial claim. It especially shows up in sports, during a game, or when two "experts" square off in a debate.

Is it possible for a sports announcer to talk about a game (A GAME!) without using expressions like, "absolutely," or "without a doubt," or "no doubt about it" after his/her partner has made some trivial point about the world of sports? Why would we talk about such subjective things--gray areas to be sure--in such absolute terms? It used to be that absolutes were rare, reserved for the sublime, life-and-death issues that pertain to everyone. Absolutes were supposed to be universal.

But, today, they're ubiquitous--everyone uses them for everything (absolutely!). As a result, superlatives have the opposite effect on me. When I hear them, I think to myself, "They're talking about nothing."

Perhaps that should give Christians a new strategy for sharing our faith. Understatement may be the most substantive way to put the things that matter most.



Jordan said...

I know this aspect wasn't exactly what you were talking about, but your observation struck me as ironic considering how most authors speak of our culture as one that has no "absolutes", but then again, maybe that is what makes them ubiquitous.

Rodney Reeves said...


On the contrary. That is exactly the point I'm trying to make. What troubles me is how we rush in where angels fear to tread, speaking of absolutes as if this were the only way to defend the faith (apologetics).

Darryl Schafer said...

I've fallen in love with mystery over the last few years. Barth's idea that God "this side resurrection" must be unknown or is otherwise an idol is captivating.

Although, he seems pretty "certain" about that.

matt gallion said...

Literally, your best post.