Some folks sit in front of a television set for hours every day. They will turn on the TV in the morning and leave it on all day whether they're watching it or not. The TV is the last thing that gets turned off at night. When they do sit down to watch it, their favorite shows are interrupted every few minutes with groups of advertisements trying to sell products of every conceivable kind. The ads don't just play once but are shown over and over and over again. The constant interruptions are outrageous and insulting but they don't mind. They don't feel the insult of it and won't refuse to put up with it. They would never say "Enough is enough", pull the plug on the TV set and cancel the cable TV account. It would never occur to them to phone the cable company and say they are no longer willing to be abused and exploited by people who want their money and that they're closing their account and won't be back until the commercials are gone. They will probably never just walk away from it all and go do something else instead. No. For the rest of their lives and their children's lives they will sit in front of the TV set for hours each day and night and intake the commercials as if the commercials are a part of the show. As if commercials naturally belong there like unavoidable thorns on a long stemmed rose. As if commercials are a natural part of television. It's a trade off they have come to perceive as normal and expected.
Trade offs in nature are not unusual. Coconuts have impossibly hard shells to break in order to get to the edible white nut inside. Watermelons are unfortunately studded with little black seeds that are not pleasant to bite on. Bees make honey but they also sting people, and so on. In nature the upsides often come with downsides. But there is an important difference between coconuts and TV commercials. TV commercials are not a naturally occuring phenomenon. In fact they are wholly unnatural. There is no human need for them. For the most part people don't like them or want to watch them. After an established fifty plus year track record it is safe to say that TV advertising is pernicious, destructive and hated. Any sane person of sober mind would undoubtedly agree that TV commercials should be abolished.
Television should be for people. It should be about people. It should benefit the public, not the ethically crippled profiteers who feed on our minds, bodies and cash. Television as a technology has the potential to reach, teach and inform. It could also facilitate two way communication as opposed to passive one way output, allowing people at both the local and national levels to actually talk back and to participate and do interesting things, even paradigm changing things.
When I say things like that to those who are still asleep they look at me like I'm crazy. They don't deny what I'm saying they just don't see it as that big a deal. They are sure that they are too smart to be affected by anything on the TV set, programs or otherwise. They feel informed and in control and are not concerned about what I'm saying. By the same token they don't know anything about the economy or history or what their dearly elected are doing. They often don't even know the name of the vice president or for that matter the names of their alleged representatives. They can't name or describe a single piece of legislation that has ever been on the table or was passed into law and don't pay the slightest attention to all things political. They can however tell you all about Bart Simpson, sports, their favorite soft drinks, the Oprah show and their favorite places to shop and go out to eat, what the kids want to buy and have and do and with rare exception no one in their family ever picks up a book or considers reading or taking a trip to the library. They think I'm funny for even bringing it up.
To them I am the disconnected one. I am the one who does not see the way and the light. They are plugged in to "the happening" as it unfolds each day and is presented to them. They know who's who and what's hot and what's not. They know the latest movie that everyone wants to see and the newest cool cell phone model and all about cell phone plans and costs. They know all of the pop stars and all of the popular songs, the TV shows and TV stars and hottest people and movies out of Hollywood. When they turn on the car radio they enjoy listening to it while I can't stand the car radio for two seconds because it is sheer insanity. Insanity is the norm in this country. Insanity is good. Insanity is fun. Insanity for one and all is the goal and the reason for living. Plug in to the insanity and join the insanity collective and you can be normal too.
Here's the thing. There is no such thing as "the happening". It is all an illusion. It is believed to be real because it is an ongoing story that people identify with. People live their lives vicariously through identifying with an externally generated stream of illusion. They take their identities, perspectives and values from an externally generated, pervasive, all encompasing, non stop, 24 hours a day, illusion stream. It feels real to them. It is real to them.
Take away the TV set, the movies, the advertising, the pop stars, the radio, shut it all off. Now tell me who you are. Tell me what is real. Tell me what matters now.
A shock of silence happens when the external bombast of the mass media collective is removed from conscious awareness. Attention is abruptly focused within instead of everywhere else except within. In that silence you can hear yourself think. Only in that silence can you hear yourself at all. The question is, can you stand it?
Can you stand hearing your own mind and no other voices? Can you sit in silence and think? Can you bear being all by yourself? Have you ever considered doing something on your own, without anybody else being with you? Does the very idea of being alone frighten you?
If you feel that being disconnected from everything happening out there would be horrible and unbearable and that you'd feel lost and alone and wouldn't know what was going on and wouldn't have the slightest idea what to do with yourself, then I have a question for you. Do you actually exist?
Would there still be a "you" if you were blocked off from all of those external things and other people? Do you exist as a unique individual with your own identity and ideas that come from yourself and are not dependent on what anybody else thinks or says? Who are you? Do you know? Do you know what the meaning of your life is? Do you care about what it means to exist in a world floating in space, or why you are here, or why it matters? Does it even matter to you?
I can't show you proof to support this, but my guess is that most people ask themselves questions about meaning fairly early in life. Around the time we're becoming teenagers we start to wonder about things like why we exist and where we come from and what it all means. This is the time when we stop being Mom and Dad's little acorn, a product of the trees they are, and we start to become a tree of our own.
The first thing a tree has to do is set down roots. Unless and until it can do that it can't do much growing. If the spot it tries to grow its roots into isn't optimal for growth then it won't become a big strong tree. It might not die but it will be limited in its growth and will likely come out small and scraggly and unable to produce much, if anything at all.
You are a tree. I am a tree. We are all trees. The difference is that we can decide when and where to grow our roots and just as important, what we want to use as our life's ground. Whatever we grow out of will be the foundation of everything about us. What we grow into and become is inextricably linked to that foundation. The roots I am speaking of are not physical, they are mental. The roots of our mind will determine who we are.
It's easy to see how plugging in to the collective mass media illusion seems like an easy and obvious way out of facing up to and dealing with the questions of identity and meaning churning around in the turmoil of everything else inside us. It's also very difficult to ignore the mass media or avoid it. It's as if there are enormous flat screens floating over our heads at every moment of our lives depicting the ongoing stories, the illusions, of the collective. We have no control over what is projected nor are we a part of its story. We don't personally know any of the familiar people on its screens or anything about them and yet we feel as if we do know them and they feel like real and authentic people to us who are somehow a part of our lives. Nothing on the screens are our own story and nothing we see and hear has anything to do with our lives; but there it is anyway and the people projected there are glamorous and beautiful, wealthy and successful. They are cool, they are right, they are popular, or authoritative, or extreme or geeks or they're angry, rebellious, fighting back, lashing out, being stalked by a lunatic with a chain saw, having sex with everybody and anybody, there is always somebody up there to identify with. Whether we know it or not or like it or not we will emulate these illusory people. We will dress like they dress and try to look like they look. We will say the things they say and behave as they behave. They are our illusory role models, digital projections who are not even real, but we don't think about that. We just take it in as our reality.
If the collective mass media becomes the soil we put down our roots into then illusion becomes the foundation that supports our world view. Illusion becomes the source of our personal identity. And illusion becomes what interests us most. Life is easy to understand because all questions are already answered, all values are already assigned, and everything is pre-labelled, pre-chewed, pre-discovered and provided. Life becomes effortless. All you have to do is choose. Choose an identity and go buy the accessories that go with it. Life is but a dream.
Nothing in the illusion can answer our questions of meaning, self worth or true identity. No illusion can supply the real meaning that is the only soil we can grow in. Even our growth is an illusion. Our thoughts and opinions are based on illusions, along with our self image and ideas about everything in the world. Our thoughts, feelings and values about these things don't come from our own tree, they come from a tree of illusions and we are only pretending they belong to us and are us. We will never feel whole or satisfied without answering those questions ourselves. Those questions will be like sneakers in the dryer of our minds, banging around waiting to be pulled out and dealt with. If we ignore them long enough or talk ourselves out of paying attention to them, eventually we won't hear them anymore. If we fear facing those questions, if we avoid them, deny them, or tell ourselves that they are proof that we are not like everybody else and we must hide them or nobody will respect us anymore, then eventually we will learn to successfully block out the noise they make inside our minds. It is a choice. Listening to our truth within, or choosing the collective mind. We can choose reality and truth and grow ourselves, which is plenty interesting and rewarding. Or we can opt to allow exciting and beautiful illusions to define us. We can let other people form our mind, construct our self image, think for us, and make us believe that we are no more than what they want us to be. If we allow the illusion stream to define us then our life is an illusion and we will be entirely unequipped to handle reality when it inevitably rears it's terrifying head and vomits into our lap.
Please, if you have kids, pull the damn plug on the TV. Don't let your kids sit in front of the thing morning, noon and night. They still have a slim chance to exist for real, not as an illusion. I don't know what life will be like when nothing is real anymore. The day is coming. In fact, it's pretty much here.