Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mindless Television

On the road again to Paradise (California, that is) with Kathy. As on our last big road trip in May, we are staying at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Madera.

As is ubiquitous in these modern marvels of hyper-efficient modular bedrooms, each morning there is offered up a free breakfast. You can make your own waffles. You can eat egg, steak, and cheeze (sic) scramble with a side of seasoned breakfast potatoes. In a nod to a balanced diet there is fresh fruit and yogurt. 

And there is television.

The television is a flatscreen  jumbotron that sits at one end of the dining area so it is visible from every table in the room. There is no escape. As I trundle my breakfast goodies to a somewhat secluded corner (it takes two trips), the local NBC affiliate is blasting a story about the brutal beating death of a local woman and the trial of her alleged killer. And everyone just eats and gazes toward the flickering light of the screen and they nod their heads and go back to refill their coffee ("I think I'll try to the 'Robust' this time"). 

It all becomes suddenly surreal. How can you be eating breakfast here with your children and listen to this kind of story without a sudden and violent visceral reaction? Have we become so desensitized to violence that it becomes just be another choice on the breakfast buffet? ("Would you like some rape and sodomy with with your bagel?")

We are mindless, most of the time. We have become adroit androids, expert at compartmentalizing our lives. Of shutting out what we don't want to see and filling our minds with distractions until we have no more bandwidth for real loving kindness, compassion, and joy. I, too, shut out the horrible news story and tune in again when the weather report comes on. 

Maybe that story serves as a necessary reminder that my family is alive and safe. Maybe we need to know that there is justice in the world, and that the karmic debts of our past actions must be paid. But do we have to hear these lessons while we're eating breakfast?

And apparently nobody sees the irony that the next news story after the bludgeoning is a consumer reports piece about the effectiveness of air cleaners.



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