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Friday, September 21, 2012

A Basic Challenge of Mass Communication


THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
---William Wordsworth 1806.

Today I had a conversation with someone who said that she had stopped watching the news on TV or even following it on the Internet. The news for her was too unrelievedly filled with humanity's cruelty and meanness. For her own mental and spiritual health, she found it necessary to tune out the overwhelming and incessant bleakness of our times. I told her I found it necessary to do something of the same—where I used to watch the news religiously every evening, I now often turn instead to something that has a little love in it. For me it comes down in the end to this—there is so little to nothing I can do about most “world events” that I have come to concentrate on events in my own microcosm. Somehow I have been given faith that if I and others concentrate on limited areas where our actions have some hope of making a positive difference, then that is where we should place our focus and concentrate our efforts to effect change. I may not be able to control everything or even very much, but at least in my own life and in the lives I touch daily, I have some hope—even confirmed assurance—that I can make a meaningful difference.

For me it's much like if I find I have a big project to do. En mass it can be overwhelming and I am tempted to avoid grappling with it at all. Yet, when I say to myself, “to begin I will focus on some small aspect of the project—something that is readily doable;” then by degrees I can build up momentum to tackle more unwieldy aspects of the task.

Perhaps initially the evening news gave me a delusional sense of power as I watched in synopsis the world unfold before me (in half an hour); now I realize that though mass communication is readily available, it does not imply that my responsibility to be informed brings with it any legitimate necessity for me to control or intervene in everything.

Deep within my brain the stark graphics on the screen implant that I must take immediate and effective action—something more often than not quite impossible to do. This results in an enervating daily emotional overload—tending to render me ineffective not only in the world, but even in my own home. While no one should think it is wise to bury one's head in the sand, neither should we pretend that mere exposure implies that we have competence to correct every abuse we see on screen now brought incessantly to us in the intimacy of our study or bedroom. Perhaps due to the way our brains are wired, we will never be totally let off the hook without a degree of quite intentional and willful callousness. The trick is not let this necessary coping mechanism corrupt our responses even in those areas where we do have abundant and sufficient power to make a decisive difference.

Let there be Peace on Earth: The Choirboys

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on Earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
We are family,
Let us walk with each other,
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow,

To take each moment and live each moment
in peace, eternally.
Let there be Peace on Earth,
and let it begin with me.

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