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Clearing Our Minds and Our Hearts: A Reflection

April 2, 2022
I took this photo of a painting at the Merton Center on the campus of Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY a few years ago.

I have found myself staying away from Television unless it is College Football season. We watch movies and shows on BritBox, Amazon Prime, and Netflix in addition to the occasional DVD from our small collection. I have also tried to limit my time on Social Media, especially when it comes to “hot topics” that raise my blood pressure. Yes, I get news emails but I often find myself gleaning through reputable sources once or twice a day. It isn’t always easy but it is always necessary for my own spiritual, emotional, and mental health.

Am I burying my head in the sand? Absolutely not. I am simply avoiding overdosing on the 24/7 media monster. When I was growing up my family watched the local news and then the national news. The news was brought to our living room via Walter Cronkite or the Huntley-Brinkley Report. Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite were reporters who reported the news and were trustworthy. There wasn’t a whole lot of hype nor was there the constant yelling over the other speakers to “get your point across.”

With the birth of the 24/7 news cycle in the 1980s came the talking heads and armchair experts. Over the decades they have only become louder and more obnoxious. On September 11th, 2001 I was on Active Duty with the Air Force as a Chaplain. The repeated viewings of the planes hitting the towers was too much for those of us who were preparing the base defenses, let alone our families at home. At my urging, my now ex-wife turned off the news prior to our son getting home from school. I was in another location and wouldn’t be home for 48 hours. Our son didn’t need hysterics, he needed the calm and safety of home.

This phenomenon/cycle has only become worse as time has gone on. Between politics and the pandemic it has become too much. Television and Social Media have become incredibly toxic and I have had to limit my intake for my own well-being. I only wish that other people would step away from the media nightmare. The following quote from Thomas Merton is especially relevant in this toxic environment.

The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see we cannot think. The purification must begin with the mass media. How? (p. 72 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

How do we purify this this mess? Thomas my friend, I wish I knew the answer to your question. For me it is one mouse click and remote control click at a time in order to reduce the level of toxicity in my environment. Additionally I seek to encourage others to do the same thing. Perhaps then people would begin talking to each other instead of yelling and screaming at each other? That is my hope and my prayer, Thomas… just as I imagine it was your hope and prayer decades ago.

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