US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A year of Living Oprah-ly

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A Chicago woman has undertaken an interesting challenge: to live by the rules and recommendations of Oprah for one year. “Lo,” the pseudonym for the performance artist undertaking this challenge, watches Oprah’s talk show, reads her magazines, and scans her website for advice to “live your best life,” an Oprah slogan, The Chicago Reader reports. She then records her experience on her blog, Living Oprah.

The idea came from reflecting on how many women in her life, including her grandmother, would pass on “Oprah says” advice, like they really knew and trusted her. The project, though, is taking on religious dimensions.

After winning tickets to the talk show, Lo said that an audience member seated next to her screamed “Thank you Jesus!” sporadically. “It was like a church revival,” the Reader reports that Lo said.

Last week (July 28), Lo posted on a show about an Oprah fan who left a chair open for Oprah. Oprah had the fan’s furniture brought into the set so that Oprah could finally sit in the chair. It scarily reminded Lo of the Passover tradition of leaving a chair open for Elijah—and that his appearance signaled the coming of the messiah:

“What Oprah's audience found charming, I felt slightly chilling as I wondered how many people keep such a seat open - actual or abstract - hoping for Oprah to make an appearance in their own lives? And what do they think her physical presence at their table will signify?”

Is Oprah a prophet? It’s hard to say, considering Oprah has made Lo do everything from buy white pants to create a vision board to remind her of her goals. Lo also struggles between blind obedience and questioning her master.

“This is why Living Oprah is so uncomfortable for me at times...I'm not used to following the leader. I'm not some crazy rebel, but I tend to prefer making my own mistakes and discoveries, finding my own path in life. I wonder if at the end of this year, I'll find a middle road to walk down - between marching to the beat of my own drummer, while being open to follow the lead of a conductor."

If Lo’s experiment, in a way, is about following a modern religion—Oprah’s way—then it also reflects on how much religion is about blind obedience versus own thought. Doesn’t everyone, to some extent, figure out just how “orthodox” they are?That’s what A.J. Jacob learned in his experiment of trying to live every rule of the Bible, he says in his book A Year of Living Biblically. Certainly the debate between about following the letter and spirit of the law has been around at least since Jesus’ day. So might this experiment in following Oprah’s Way show us something about following Jesus’ Way? Is there a point in trying to live any particular Way to the T like Lo is trying to do with Oprah?But more importantly, would you (or do you) follow Oprah’s Way? In what parts of your life does the prophet of day time TV have her say?