Entertainment and Reality
A couple of weekends ago I was engaged in a thought provoking discussion with Fr. Thomas at our Parish. I have a good deal of respect for Fr. Thomas...he seems to me to be very in touch with the essence of the teachings of the Fathers and has a good deal of experience with the monastic sense of being. Now I know he would poo-poo all of my having said this....but this is my experience of him. He is quiet, but when he speaks he warrants attention...I think.
Purification - this was our general topic. But it quickly spread into an evaluation of our present day circumstances (particularly in American culture) and how this affects our pursuit of purification. Entertainment and Reality television popped quickly into my mind as Fr. Thomas related to me how we spend much of our time in this culture trying to escape and avoid reality. We hide from it in a variety of ways: some by burying themselves in work, some through drugs or alcohol, some through intense introvertedness, some through unfathomable hedonism, and nearly all of us through the many forms of entertainment. Now, let me be clear, there is indeed a place for art as it can often lead us into a clearer perception of reality...but what I speak of here is pure entertainment, which might by definition imply an escape from reality. The new trend of "Reality" television is a case and point - entertainment with no socially redeeming value.
You will hear quite frequently the Fathers warning us not to forget two things: God and Death. We are exhorted to ALWAYS have these realities in the forefront of our minds, for in so doing it will awaken us and move us toward purification. But our culture is fond of remembering neither. I can recall watching a portion of a recent re-make of Dr. Zhivago and there is a scene in which a man is being buried and they show the traditonal Orthodox practice of kissing the descedent goodbye. When I spoke of this to a coworker they recoiled at the thought, and perceived it to be macabre. It made me further think about how we deal with death here in America, because it seems nearly every aspect of how we handle it is intended to cushion and hide us from the stark reality of it. And I need not speak of how easy it is for me to forget God...I mean to really forget His REALNESS in the world.
The communist who so persecuted the Orthodox Church in Russia (and elsewhere in Eastern Europe) taught that religion was the opiate of the masses. Haha! They had not yet seen the powerful opiate of television...the strength of which cannot be underestimated. It numbs us. It gives us excuse to forget. It creates a false reality in and of itself and ALL too often it confirms and supports our own misguided and false understandings of what IS real. It teaches, it pontificates, it dogmatizes, and it babysits (all of us.)
Entertainment and its power over our culture (AND CERTAINLY ITS POWER OVER ME!) is a symptom of the disease we have suffered from since the Fall. We need healing...but as the Holy Elders teach us: we cannot obtain such healing until we go to the hospital (the Church) and receive the touch of the Physician (Christ). We...ummm, I mean I need to get up and move...to escape the tyranny of entertainment. To engage reality...the reality of who I am, and my condition, and the reality of my connectedness to those around me. We kill one another...everyday we kill one another through our sins and then we simply head home to turn on "Friends" and we forget. In time, we forget everything and all of the world becomes to us a sitcom.
I want to ever remember God....and death. I cannot forget death.
[Click] the TV is off, and I am left alone in the cold stark reality of my own muddied soul...I need to get comfortable living in this realness.
This life has been given to you for repentence, do not waste it on vain pursuits
- St. Isaac of Syria
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:18 AM [+]