Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Television is a spiritual bacon double cheeseburger

Does your mind matter? Or does only your matter matter? Nowadays everyone seems to mind his matter. In other words, we all seem either to be dieting, exercising, or complaining that we ought to diet or exercise, or planning our new diet and exercise regime. Fast food restaurants are being sued for serving fattening meals, and the greatest sin one can commit is to smoke a cigarette in public. We take care, and rightly so, of our physical form.

But do we ever take similar care about our soul? Do we watch what we "eat," spiritually speaking? Consider this description of how temptation occurs, by St. Hesychius from the Philokalia: As an innocent child is delighted when it sees a wonder worker, and follows the doer of marvels out of guilelessness; so too our soul, being simple and good--for it was made so by its good Master--is delighted by the fantastic suggestions of the devil and being deceived it runs to that wily one as though he were good, as the dove runs to one who sets nets for her children; and so it mingles its own thoughts with the fancy of the devil's suggestion. If there should chance the face of a beautiful woman, or something else that is plainly forbidden by the commandments of Christ, it wishes as it were to contrive something to bring into reality the lovely thing which it has seen; and then having identified with the thought, it goes on and brings into effect by means of the body, to its own condemnation, the unlawful thing that it has seen in thought.

This is the art of the evil one, and with these arrows he poisons every victim. And for this reason it is not safe, until the mind has had long experience of the warfare, to allow thoughts to enter into the heart; especially in the beginning, when our soul is still in sympathy with the suggestions of the demons, takes pleasure in them and follows them eagerly; but it is necessary, as soon as we are aware of the thoughts, immediately to cut them off, at the very moment of their impact and our finding them.

The devil works through the imagination, by presenting images to us of things that we shouldn't desire. Hesychius advises that when these images (he calls them "thoughts") arise, that we immediately cut them off; it is not safe to entertain them. As he reminds us, even the wise Solomon fell. Now, consider what television does: it provides you with all sorts of images. Some of the images are acceptable, but many are of bad things--just think of any reality show on Fox. Further, even the acceptable images give rise to curiosity, to an appetite for more, always more. This is why people flip channels. They are seeking to fill the appetite for images. You can see, of course, how damaging this is to the spiritual life. In order to have union with God, we must discipline our passions; the television does nothing but feed these passions. It is a spiritual bacon double cheeseburger, and makes our soul lazy and fat.

Ask yourself this question: what goodis your television? Honestly, would your life be better or worse if you got rid of it?

P.S. Those of you who know me personally are probably laughing at me, since you know how much television I watch. Be kind. I am a work in progress. I gave up television for Lent, and haven't gone back to the amount I watched previously. Perhaps in the new house we will only keep the TV for movie nights.

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