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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Wow, television is the enemy of contemplation

We only have so much the video here and the next one posted.

I have read all of Thomas Merton's books many, many years ago but I have missed some of his articles. Now, I have come across a startling one which I missed so long ago and I hope this helps.

If you can find Cistercian Studies Quarterly, "Inner Experience: Problems of the Contemplative Life (VII)", Vol 19, 1984, notes on pp. 269-270, 

you will read that the monk compared television watching as a caricature of contemplation. 

This is earth-shaking. I knew that television interfered with silence and solitude, and that it is a brain-washing technique, but to read that it creates the same dynamic as contemplative prayer reveals the real evil.

Merton's points are these: one is passive and takes in uncritically what is given on the television; one is receptive to all that is there before one; one become inert and "yields" to  the "mystic attraction until one is spellbound in a state of complete union."

This is terrifying. And, I know this to be true. In families where there is tv, there is no peace or reflection. In families where there is no tv, there is quiet.

Merton goes on to write that television is the opposite of contemplation, which breaks with sensuality, noise, the senses in general, and the "will on a temporal or material level...the the nadir of intellectual and emotional slavery."

I visited the first house I have been in for a long time where television is on for hours and hours. People actually "shh" people into silence for stupid programs, like variety shows. I was not only amazed, but realized how this slavery is so real.

That family does not pray together and several members have fallen away from the Church. There is no adult reading concerning the Faith and no attempts at Lectio Divina. Up to six hours of television watching cloud the judgements and movements of those children as well who watch it.

Please, parents, stop watching television and start praying.

Otherwise, you cannot even begin the road to perfection.

P.S. Let me add that the faculties of the soul and mind which should be used for contemplative prayer are being seized by television. This is the point of Merton's warning...................


Anita Moore said...

I have a TV and a DVD player, and of course I have the internet, but I haven't had a television signal or cable or satellite for years. Trust me, people, you can live without TV. And if the talk I hear at work about TV shows is any indication, those of us without TV aren't missing a thing. I feel pretty certain that I'm not old enough to see some of the garbage kids are watching.

Supertradmum said...

Anita, it is not just the content, but the filling up of the mind with noise and distractions instead of silence.

I am not old enough for some of the stuff and I am 20 years older than thou.

Anita Moore said...

Supertradmum, you are right about noise and distractions. People do not know anymore what to do with silence. One can tell, for example, that the Novus Ordo Missae is a product of the age of television, as it too is full of noise and distractions. Reason No. 3,342,897 why we needed Summorum Pontificum, and why I long to have access again to the TLM.

Supertradmum said...

I pray you can find one. And pray for me as well for the same thing...I am in Novus land

kavi said...

Wow. I think that's quite insightful. I hope that watching tv alone gradually goes the way of drinking alone in terms of social acceptance - just as dangerous, imho

Supertradmum said...

Good Thomas Merton had some excellent insights. It is not merely watching along, but the type of family which shhss everyone to be quiet while they watch their favourite soap.

So, the faculties we would use for contemplative prayer are used incorrectly and to our detriment when focussing on television.

Supertradmum said...

kavi, oops, meant to say watching along, not along......

Shelly said...

I have observed, as well, that the further one gets from a relationship with God, the more one wants noise and "entertainment" to drown out the silence. You can find reality in silence, and that is the last thing you want to experience if you are trying to keep God at bay.

Jenny said...

So interesting that you post on this. I have a friend who consumes TV like most of us consume air. While spending time with that person the other day, the TV was on, of course, and I asked if they liked the show that was on, thinking we could turn it off. Friend looked over, said No and immediately their head snapped back to the TV like it was a magnet. I don't think they are even aware of how much they are being consumed by it. Your parallel to contemplation is fantastic. And it may explain why I am so uncomfortable being in the presence of gross TV consumption. TV isn't all bad, I use mine to watch old talks by Venerable Fulton Sheen. But there is nothing "on" TV today that is worth watching.