One Sunday my friends Rod and Julie were strolling through Central Park and heard strains of Eastern European music. When they ventured over they found a small crowd and a handwritten poster announcing "In ter na tion al Folk Dancing." It stated that the group gathered there every Sunday and that the performance was free.

The next day Rod sent his friends this e-mail: "It was a kick to watch, heartwarming even. An older man with a chubby face like a happy pierogi was dancing contentedly with a much younger woman, who appeared to be learning the dance from him."

As they walked away, Julie asked, "Doesn't it seem strange to you that we're both so attracted to other peoples' ethnic cultures but not our own?" The "ethnic culture" Rod and Julie had grown up in was suburban American, television-centric. "The only self-generated entertainment I grew up with was summer baseball leagues," he reflected.

Rod realized that the kind of humble homemade fun the dancers were having inevitably seems lame compared to glittery pop entertainment. "When I was growing up in a semi-rural suburban town, everything around us seemed so hickish compared to what we saw on MTV," he wrote. "I can appreciate now the frustration adults endured trying to figure out what they could offer teens to lure us away from attractive dangers. It wasn't the content of the entertainment as much as it was the presence of media culture, which was constantly informing us that our lives were dull and deficient."

Our friend Terry, a journalism professor, wrote back: "TV is easier than life.

"We have a generation of parents, and now their children, whose heroes are people they have never met. Their favorite musicians are people they have never met, or have only seen through the ...

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Frederica Mathewes-Green
Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of several books and has been a commentator for National Public Radio, National Review, and other media outlets. Her books include The Jesus Prayer and Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. Mathewes-Green's podcast "Frederica Here and Now" is carried on Ancient Faith Radio. Her column, "Your World," ran from 1998 to 2000.
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