I was not excited about seeing Mary Poppins on Broadway last night. It’s not that I hate musicals– in fact I love them. I was just hoping to see a different one. Lindsey was very excited, as the movie is one of her all-time favorites, and of course I was happy to see her thrilled by the idea of going. But in reality, that was where my excitement ended.
Then Bert tap-danced across the top of the stage. Upside down. With a huge smile on his face.
In that moment I had a distinct thought, “I’m such a cynic.” It’s true. I am in many areas. And that is too bad.
The show was fantastic. It was truly magical in places. There were flying stunts, fantastic costumes, and the great old songs we all know. By the end of the show, I was completely sold. It was optimistic yet real. It showed flawed characters who struggled to grow– and then did. The world needs stories like this. We need to see them, hear them and tell them. Our world is so cynical that in many ways we don’t know how to be otherwise.
But this is true of marriage, too– or maybe especially.
Think about the marriage jokes men and women tell. They all come from a place of pointing out either the absurdities of the other gender or their irredeemable faults. Look at the TV shows we have– the bumbling father and the overbearing mother is a standard template. And maybe the worst of all, what about the gallows humor tossed around at weddings?
They are all the height of cynicism.
It should not be this way. Marriage is a miracle. We should wake up everyday in awe of the mystery of marriage. How can two people become one flesh? It’s unbelievable, but it happens. Why do life-long desires for myself slowly decrease while my love and hopes for my wife increase? Because that is what is happening every day, bit by bit. A joyful marriage is a blessing and something to be sought after, yet our culture weighs it down with pessimism.
Cynicism can serve a purpose in art. Art should point us to the realities of our humanity, both good and bad. In part, this is what cynicism does– it points out the darker side of the human experience. But it is not a universal good, far from it. Too often, it is a bad influence on the human soul. It can perpetuate oppression and cover for wrong-doing. It can rationalize evil.
I don’t know how to get rid of cynicism about marriage, but I think that should be the goal. We need less cynicism in this world… and more Mary Poppins.