Thursday, August 6

When A "Thousand Words" Trump a Picture

Claude Monet--"The Artist's House at Argenteuil"


"This phrase emerged in the USA in the early part of the 20th century. Its introduction is widely attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who published a piece commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising with the title "One look is worth a thousand words", in Printer's Ink, December 1921." (Wickipedia)

OK, that's the saying and the Wiki explanation. Pros & Cons?

Pros. True, one can stand before a marvelous painting by Monet or Cezanne and appreciate their ability to make an "impression" by their painting style. And they DO. There's something to be said for art appreciation, something which, it seems, too few Americans appreciate. Likewise, we should learn to be still long enough to soak in the beauty of a calm Spring day after a long hard winter, or the magnificent grandeur of the Tetons. Sometimes a gasp is all that one can manage when faced with the Grand Canyon. Words fail us then, as well they should. That's a positive reaction to some very visual stimuli.

Cons. On the other hand, visual media like TV has jaded the general population's appreciation for the verbal means of communication. Carl Trueman, in his essay "The Undoing of the Reformation," writes,

One has only to look at the billions of dollars and pounds spent on advertising to see where 'the market', that infallible judge of what is and is not important in contemporary society, regards the centres of power to be: advertising, TV air-time, and image/PR consultancies whose sole reason for existence is the manipulation or 'spinning' of the media to a client's advantage. The visual media (whether of the televisual or of the tabloid newspaper variety), with all the associated baggage of 'spindoctors', PR people etc, is without doubt one of the dominant forces within our culture today, and this has led to a general cultural bias in favour of the visual over and against the verbal [emphasis mine]. Thus, in entertainment, television is more popular than radio; and in politics it is more important to look good than to articulate a coherent argument.
The point of all this is to show how our culture has undermined the value of the spoken or written word, favoring instead the visual impression exclusively. Why is this so important for you and for me? Because, as Trueman continues, there has resulted a "war against words. The rise to a position of cultural dominance by the visual media and the parallel widespread collapse in confidence in language has its corollary in the various quests to find 'truth' elsewhere and in other forms . . ."

This has been devastating on numerous levels, but especially so to preaching. We preach "words," in propositions (statements that can be validated as to their veracity) so it is vital to re-capture the focus of our preaching, not allowing the postmodern, visual culture to "dumb down" our ability to proclaim the truth in the manner in which our Lord dictated.

Lord willing, I hope to unveil the resolution to this "sticky wicket" on the next post.

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