09 February 2009

idol: of hawaiian tikis, greg brady's surfing accident, and our proclivity to return to karmic lifestyles

(This post is also here...)

In episode 73 of the Brady Bunch, we learn that Mike Brady has been sent to Hawaii to check on a construction project for his architecture firm. The firm allows him to take the whole Brady clan with him, creating an impromptu vacation (and a three-episode journey away from the Astorturf lawn and shared bedrooms of Casa de Brady). Even the maid, Alice, joined in on the fun, although she was surely missing Sam the Butcher while she was gone.

Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Bobby Brady discovers some sort of ancient tiki idol. All of the boys marvel at the idol and Greg Brady decides to wear it around his neck while surfing. As could be expected, he gets in a serious surfing accident and the beginning of the threads of the story that paints the idol as some sort of dark, magical, bad-luck charm is seen.

The plotline continues to the point that we, the audience, find ourselves in a cave, where the boys have been taken captive by some crazy professor of archaeology, who is convinced that the Brady Boys were out to hijack his latest “find”. Of course it all eventually works out - they have a Luau on the beach for good measure and everyone seems happy (except for Alice, who is most secretly yearning to get home to go bowling with Sam).

Looking back, this story arc was one of the more ridiculous of its kind in television history. It was as if the writers watched a few too many Scooby Doo episodes (nefarious yet well-intentioned professors, kids stumbling into trouble, an implausibly clean happy ending) and suddenly decided that such a storyline might work in live-action TV. Even for the Brady Bunch, the tiki stuff was far-fetched.

And yet, look around. We are awash in our own tiki idols, in our own self-made fantasy of good and evil, taboo and luck. We cling to things that we feel good about and dispose of the things around which bad experiences form. We live like our life is this boomerang, careening back to us with blessings or burdens depending on with what intentions we threw it.

I have a neighbor who wants a new car because the current one has “bad vibes”. Might it simply be a bad driver? I know a few folks who are thinking of trading in their marriage, thinking that some bad karma seeped in while they were sleeping. Maybe marriage is just hard work and no one adequately explained that. How many of our donations to causes around the world are directly tied to some idea that we are going to be cosmically paid back for them at some point. In our society, we give to get. If only could see the reality: We get to give.

Until we take hold of the Truth that Christ ushered us into a post-karmic world, we’re doomed to a life of fantasy – of mojo and karma, of vibes and taboos. We will continue to seek the things that lead to righteousness, while our eyes and ears fail to see and hear that a new righteousness has been bestowed upon us.

Anyway, sometimes a surfing accident is just a surfing accident. No tiki necessary.


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