I made the mistake of watching TV this past weekend. I generally watch too much television but I think it’s mostly as an element of distraction. I often read while it’s on or I sometimes write. But this weekend, after the death of Whitney Houston, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the fact that no matter what I put on (except for some cable movie station) there were sad-faced reporters relaying a series of speculations about the singer’s death. It got me to thinking about our obsession with popular culture and I suppose, about my own. These people we elevate to such heights of perfection have nowhere to go but down. And then we engage in a collective tongue clucking over their downfall.
It seems as though we as a country spend so much time seeking things to distract us. We have a twenty-four hour news cycle, restaurants that never close and an entertainment media complex that churns out drivel by the boat load. There is never a moment when I cannot get access to the latest news whether it’s on the TV, my phone or a computer. Helicopters flying overhead? Jump on the iPhone. Someone famous dies? Turn on the TV and you can be guaranteed to find non-stop coverage. And if the circumstances of that person’s death are ‘mysterious’, expect to hear from experts who appear to have been dragged from some ‘expert warehouse’ and propped in front of a camera. And many of us take what these people say at face value and repeat it to our friends or via social media as though it is fact. It is relentless.
I'm going to go out on a limb that not a single person who has even attended a silent retreat cannot recall at least one time when someone's phone started ringing. That's distraction.
Sitting in silence at the beginning of my day has given me tremendous gratitude for the moments in my busy life when there is nothing turned on or turned up and competing for my attention. And even then, it’s so hard to concentrate on, well, nothing. Because even that nothingness can have an infinite amount of junk attached to it.
It’s all about finding a place for peace and quiet. I don’t hear people saying that very often anymore.
I just want some peace and quiet.
It’s a lot harder to come by these days.