IN THESE TIMES: CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION OF THE MIND - Quiet Under A Persimmon Tree Vs. Entertaining Ourselves To Death



"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and
restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -
trees, flowers, and grass grows in silence; see the stars,
the moon and the sun, how they move in silence ... We need
silence to be able to touch souls." - Mother Teresa

By Bob Weaver

I'm sorta slow figuring what's wrong with the world, but it came to me out on the Husk Ridge, sitting under an old persimmon tree and gazing at Paulcer's Knob.

It's the absence of silence.

I came out the Husk to enjoy the quiet, with its infrequent disruption of a hunter's gunshot or a meandering ATV coming around the ridge.

I survived the 24/7 hubris of the 2016 presidential campaign and Trump's presidency by turning to docile public radio and TV, and we continue the same, ignoring the tweets and rants and generally ignoring the several hundred channels on satellite TV, with the exception of some old movies whose plot thickens quietly without the prime products of Hollywood and TV, visceral violence and in-your-face sex.

America is a nation that is entertaining itself to death, politics now its entertainment, with an overwhelming ignorance of history and basic human values.

Most American's get their information from "talking heads," while the broadcaster worries about their ratings and making their next million.

But social media occupies most Americans on a given day, labored with gossip, threats and conspiracy theories.

In American culture, TV is quite willing to feature the vile, immoral, and accusatory words of politicians, the public immune to the racket, wanting even more.

We have vague clues about what is going on.

TV's news is full of exciting chatter and video, the beliefs of the left and right with lots of blame, further polarizing the viewers and radicalizing those tweets, while Washington gets little done.

Much of it has created a nation of fear, dehumanization and detachment. We now call it "The New Normal," a dramatic change in America's values.

I have renewed my option to tune it out, finding more quiet and reading more.

Reading has the virtue of silence.

Some will remember there was a time that people actually sat down and talked to each other, and in between those conversations was silence, sometimes long silence, absent the compulsive need to fill the time with noise, chatter and entertainment.

Now we tweet, Facebook, rant, and name call, filling our souls.

At my grandparents home at Hur, family members and visitors would sit on the enclosed front porch and story-tell or comment on the news or politics, after which there would be long silences, a period of absorption or reflection.

There was more real conversation at the country stores, and most every other place one would visit on a given day.

Judge Larry Whited reminded me of such when he causally said, "Everything I needed to know about life, I learned on the porch of the country store at Zona."

Silence, the quiet, gives time for critical thinking, sorting through the information, coming up with a few solutions. It allows for one of life's great blessings, reconciliation.

The science of life on earth and how to protect it has been removed to a back seat, framed by politics and as Eddie Austin Kirby espoused - "the moneychangers."

With brains now programmed for constant noise, the absence of such seems abnormal.

It is the conspicuous consumption of the mind.

Neil Postman's book, written over 25 years ago, says we are surely "Amusing Ourselves to Death." We're facebooking, texting, twittering, gaming, cell-phoning, e-mailing, downloading, browsing, surfing, watching TV and movies, and giving ourselves permission to raise hell.

We have now learned that the most dubious, lying hellraiser generally comes out a winner. We have all sorts of devices connected to our bodies to "keep us in touch," stimulate and be entertained to help the "New Normal."

Could it be that such clutter defines what's wrong with education, flunking to rise to minimal achievement across America.

It can't compete.

And even if it could, the efforts would likely become part of the noise.

Albert Einstein once said, while others say he was misquoted, "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots," whose survival will depend primarily on being stimulated.

Postman wrote, "We have been habituated to visual entertainment measured out in spoonfuls at a time, but what happens when we come to expect the same thing from our politics and public discourse?"

Postman asked what happens when journalism, education, and religion become forms of show business.

Surely they have.

Many Americans now agree with the "fake news" rant, ignoring that without a free press, our nation is doomed.

Only in silence can one make powerful spiritual connections or have an epiphany or a meaningful discovery.

It is in silence that we can confront ourselves, what we really believe.

I am surely blessed, to have written a few quiet words under a persimmon tree, and silence is much of my life in old age.

Nicholas Sparks: "We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence.

It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox."