Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Contra TV and All Such Vain Imaginings

True Confessions time.... My Lenten discipline includes cutting back on the amount of time I spend watching TV, that "vain amusement" which often helps clear my head after a very church-filled day.

Unlike some more of my more seriously counter-cultural friends I cannot find it in my heart to give up cable or TV entirely. However, during Lent I AM limiting myself to no more than 1 hour per day, except Saturday evening/ Sunday when I buy into the good theology/ wimpy excuse that "every Sunday is an Easter" and thus Lenten disciplines are not in force. So much for the monastic injunction, "let your life be a continual Lent." At least observing the Sabbath enables me to watch an entire movie at one sitting.

One big plus of this particular Lenten discipline is that the extra time can spent in more profitable pursuits, like praying ..... and reading.

One should always read the footnotes, which I did last night as I was finishing Michael Casey's book Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, (pp. 136-37). Another confession..... I usually read any book's copious chapter endnotes after I finish the body of the text because I am just too lazy to keep flipping back and forth.

The treasure contained in Casey's endnotes is comprised of two quotes, one from Thomas Merton, specifically about TV and the other from John Henry Cardinal Newman, who, if he were alive today, would likely be saying about TV what he said in the 19th century about "works of fiction."

Thomas Merton....
"The life of the television-watcher is a kind of caricature of contemplation. Passivity, uncriticial absorption, receptivity, inertia. Not only that, but a gradual, progressive yielding to the mystic attraction until one is spellbound in a state of complete union. The trouble with this caricature is that it is really the exact opposite of contemplation... [Contemplation] is the summit of a life of spiritual freedom. The other, the ersatz, is the nadir of intellectual and emotional slavery."

"Inner Experience: Problems of the Contemplative Life (VII)," CSQ 19 (1984), pp. 269-270.

and Cardinal Newman on overstimulation of the emotions.....
"God has made us feel in order that we may go on to act in consquence of feeling; if then we allow our feelings to be excited without acting upon them, we do mischief to the moral system within us, just as we might spoil a watch or other piece of mechanism, by playing with the wheels of it. We weaken its springs, and they cease to act truly. Accordingly, when we have got into the habit of amusing ourselves with these works of fiction, we come at length to feel the excitement without the slightest thought or tendency to act upon it."
Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. II, Longmans, Green & Co. , London, 1891, pp. 371-372.

Thank you, Michael Casey, for your insight and thank you, God, for giving me this Lenten breathing space to love and enjoy You.

1 comment:

Antony said...

Wow, those are some gems there. So it pays to read dem footnotes! Thanks Bro Phil for sharing the fruits of your Lenten journey.