An alarm: At a time of year when daylight is shorter and outdoor recreation opportunities are more restrictive, understanding some key principles could affect how much time you’ll let your little ones sit down in front of any type of visual media (TV, DVDs, movie theaters, YouTube videos, video games, etc). Get these insights under your belt and you’ll be less apt to be duped into passivity over this vital mental (and spiritual) issue.
Muse means “to think,” but “a-muse” means NOT “to think;” our families are dangerously swimming in long hours of such mindlessness. The alarm is that we think this is normal. This blog post is an attempt at tossing some life preservers into this tidal wave. When viewed historically, it becomes obvious that our modern proclivity for amusement is not normal—it has an insidious undertow. Consider these thoughts drawn from Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death.
- Too often, entertainment does not lead to any meaningful action. Instead, it provides pointless quantity, and its audiences are overtaken by irrelevance and novelty.
- We have almost an infinite appetite for distraction. We’re after applause, not reflection.
- Standards have become a slippery slope of objective truth. One person’s PG-13 rating is another person’s R.
- TV courtrooms are filled with—? Reading, on the other hand, trains us in delaying arriving at a verdict until the entire argument has been presented, from multiple sides. To be true, justice needs to abhor contradiction, be deductive, and have a tolerance for delayed responses. In other words: justice is the good fruit of jurors who are detached, analytical, and devoted to logic.
- We are afflicted with pleasure (and with pleasure-seeking). We soothe the deep regions of our discontent with entertainment. Books, on the other hand, require quiet scrutiny; they even require something of our physical bodies. We have to sit long enough to read an argument through.
- Pictures can never get at the larger abstractions of truth, honor, love, and falsehood.
- Seeing, not reading (much less, thinking), has become the basis for believing.
- “You press a button; we do the rest.” Such a phrase would have been unthinkable in our past history. What does this mean, really? Has media data, delivered in such a manner, actually told or taught us anything?
- TV-disseminated information often is so random and disparate in scale and value as to be incoherent, even psychotic.
- Entertainment offers fascination and triviality in place of complexity and coherence.
- TV raised the image and instancy to a dangerous perfection, superseding rational thought.
- The public has adjusted to incoherence and has been amused into indifference.
- Information about celebrities and entertainers has become serious cultural content. Even politics and policy making has become entertainment. Too often, the populace has voted based on style, looks, and great one-liners, rather than judgment, justice, wisdom, discretion, rationality, deduction, inference, character, and a habit of being prudent. A mindless democracy could release an undisciplined individualism.
- We hear news without consequences. The “and NOW this” tells us that what we have JUST heard and seen has no relevance with what we are ABOUT to see and hear.
- From media we get clues about how we are supposed to respond to the world around us. What sort of clues?
- Endless pictures and imagery short-circuit introspection.
- News commentators are overrun with ingratiating enthusiasms as they report on earthquakes and mass killings.
- The viewer is not permitted to pay attention to a concept, a person, or problem for more than a few minutes (with the exception of politics, perhaps—and then it is an overdose, from one slant or another).
- The high praises of God are sandwiched between commercials. Huh?
- People will eat, go to the bathroom and do push-ups during media church.
- Alluring visual imagery replaces the Ten Commandments. Nothing is required of you; there are no demands.
- A preacher’s close-up televised face makes idolatry a continual hazard. Despite the references to the great HE, the focus is on the “he” in front of you.
- We have grown accustomed to receiving our politics, our news and our church all in the same way.
- Edwards, Finney, Whitefield, on the other hand, spent long hours in their studies. Their sermons were so profound, they went past reason into regions of conscience. The modern tel-evangelist requires nothing of the watcher, no demands of the soul; no adherence to the Ten Commandments—only alluring visual imagery and modern sounds.
- For the sale of products, too often emotions rule over reason.
- With the exception of store items online, decisions about advertised products tend to be made from images rather than from specs/facts/claims (tests of truth).
- Capitalism used to be a rational market of mutual self-interest, but now we have shifted from product research to market research.
- Does away with sequence and continuity. Thou shalt have no prerequisites to your thinking.
- Depends upon brevity of expression and instancy; it disdains exposition.
- Reading and writing are exchanged for t-shirts and cookie-jars.
- Media is all about the present, with no access to the past except when it is perverted to serve an agenda.
- The modern mind has grown indifferent to history. We are distracted by trivia.
- Education was always supposed to free the student from the tyranny of the present. Shows like Sesame Street, on the other hand, do not encourage children to love school, they encourage them to love TV.
- Uncertainty is intolerable in a culture that is dictated by the mass media.
- All problems are solvable, they are solvable fast, and technology and chemistry are the only means of solving them. No reference is made to patience, prayer, delay, etc. as agents of problem solving. There are no photos of Abe Lincoln smiling. Perplexity and complexity are avoided, because they have become a superhighway to low ratings.
- We believe that being sold solutions is better than being confronted with questions.
- The fiber-optic cable has replaced co-presence.
- People don’t get to know their neighbors when they stop interacting face to face.
- Social media has replaced large amounts of real sociability— particularly in our own families.
What’s the conclusion? We have a problem—and a predates the edicts set down this past year during the coronavirus situation. We’re sinking away from reality in our homes via this long hobnobbing with popular mass media. Think: as a result of the influence of the world’s media in our homes, is eternity a lesser reality or a greater reality for us? Where IS eternity in the media? Who is shaping the mental diet of our children? To what ends?
Awake and see that our exposure to popular mass media is a problem. Most of our culture sees NO problem. For us, more time spent in the printed word and, especially, in HIS Word can insulate us from being totally taken underwater on this point. TV doesn’t ban books, it just displaces them. It encourages us to watch continually, rather than to evaluate, analyze, cogitate, pray…
Keep in mind that when you take away vast quantities of media you must fill the void with something better. Reading good missionary biographies and other histories is a good start. Indoor exercise bikes and little rebounders are also great productive uses of time, and promote health. Family cooking projects can be great sport and can provide togetherness. Entrepreneurial advances marshal stray hours into good purposes. Visiting the elderly —offering joy to someone else via your attentive listening—is a wonderful use of time. Playing a musical instrument (practicing stimulates the brain in meaningful ways) and family singing in parts is another positive avenue. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not have access to the media, and they did not die from its absence. They lived meaningfully and progressively under God’s good guidance. Enlarge your perspective and keep it enlarged; you’ll not regret it.