For years, I railed against the media. I went on "music fasts" where I didn't listen to the radio or any broadcast music. I stopped watching the news, and then I stopped watching TV. I stopped reading the papers. I even stopped seeing movies.
For a while, I felt the entire concept of reporting the news was jilted. People can't hear the news without having an emotional reaction. And what possible action could I take to help a famine in Africa, or a flood in the next state, or the murder of children at a school on the opposite coast? I felt that my emotions were being toyed with. I felt that my life had enough events that happened to me and to people I know that needed my emotional reaction. I didn't need to be borrowing events from around the world that happened to people totally unknown to me.
I did all of these things because I felt that it was important for me to know my own mind. That I needed to make up my own mind based on my own, personal experiences of life. I wanted to eliminate all of the vicarious living that takes place as we watch series TV and movies. I wanted my memory full of the experience that happened naturally in my own life, and that rippled into my life from the people I interact with. I felt that by staging group experiences, the media was programming us for future responses to similar events. I never put much into conspiracy theories, I didn't feel some evil group was behind this, or that Satan was behind this as some of my religious friends believe. I just wanted to be my own person, to think my own thoughts, and have my own experiences.
I eventually started to watch movies again, but it took a long time before I would listen to the radio. I stayed off of TV for almost 20 years, and have just returned to it within the last year. Occasionally, I will pick up a newspaper. I missed Murphy Brown, Seinfeld, Star Trek, "must see TV," the O.J. trial, most of the music and many of the movies that defined segments of time. I would never do well on those trivial game shows that assume you have been observing the world around you. But what I gained is a sense of my own thoughts, the pattern of my own thinking, and a comfortable sense of being at home within silence. I gained a sense of my own integrity.
It's not that I think TV or radio or movies or news are evil or that they are deliberately created to lead people by the nose. Many of the artists involved with these endeavors are true seekers who are exploring the world and want to share that exploration with an audience. I have a great respect for the people who develop these messages. Even the marketing and advertising folks have my respect for their clever ways to draw attention from an audience that is somewhat jaded by past experiences. Today, I limit my involvement to these things mostly because of my time priorities. I have many things I want to do, and being a couch potato eats away at my productive time, the time that makes my life feel juicy. I have seen most of the X-Files in reruns, and I have upgraded to a DVD player, so don't think that I've passed over these things as unimportant or meaningless.
I feel like I've found a good balance for my life right now.
And yet, I still marvel at how the collective consciousness is filled with media images, situation comedy characters, breaking news images like the firefighter carrying the child out of the Federal Building in OK City, or the school yard in Columbine with scattered children. New media images, new TV shows and new movies have a wealth of experiences to build up, to refer to, and to lampoon in the future. And I lack most of these common experiences of the last twenty years. My perception of the world has not been influenced by them. I truly live in my own world, a world that has less overlap with the collective than people who are tuned in to the media.
I'm not sure what I think about this, I just recognize that it is true.