Thursday, October 25, 2018

The News


" ... Nine tenths of the news, as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events. Some days ten tenths. The ritual morning trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of generalized pseudo-attention to a pseudo-reality. This experience is taken seriously. It is one's daily immersion in "reality". One's orientation to the rest of the world. One's way of reassuring himself that he has not fallen behind. That he is still there. That he counts!

"My own experience has been that of renunciation of this self-hypnosis, of this participation in the unquiet universal trance, is no sacrifice of reality at all. To "fall behind" in this sense is to get out of the big cloud of dust that everybody is kicking up, to breathe and to see a little more clearly.

"When you get a clearer picture you can understand why so many want to stand in the dust cloud, where there is comfort in confusion."
-Merton, "Events and Pseudo-Events", Faith and Violence, p. 151

6 comments:

  1. The parallels with today are breathtaking.

    Now, fifty years later, perhaps the main difference is that few trust any of the news media.

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    1. I'm taken with Merton's use of the word "renounce". Renunciation of this self-hypnosis. I can feel how strong the pull is to into this trance. Every morning I look at "the news". I feel relief when I turn away from it, yet a few hours later I check it again. Sigh. It really is like an addiction, and everybody is addicted. TVs are everywhere. Phones are everywhere.

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    2. I feel like I need a monastery more than ever. Make a monastery of my home and my life.

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  2. Reading these comments about "news" by Merton sounds like the president's ongoing criticism of the press--"fake news". I trust that good journalists don't "manufacture" news any more than good scientists manufacture evidence, and I depend on them and support them. I'm surprised Merton wrote this, as he seems to imply that the press is, in part, responsible for the "confusion", the other part being our "self-hypnosis". He neglects to address our responsibility for studying the news and using discernment, getting outside of the cloud and voicing/voting our opinion (the sort of socially-conscious work he had done).

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    1. Good points, James. Merton could be quite the dreamer and out of touch with the nuts and bolts of people living outside the monastery. He bragged about never having watched a TV, which would probably be akin to not using a computer these days. (Which Pope Francis claims).

      Your comments make me feel somewhat less "guilty" about my news habit. I agree with you that we have to somehow engage in the world - speak our truth - and to do this we have to have some sort of understanding of it.

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  3. I think that Merton is pointing toward a way of relating to "reality" rather than a judgmental rant on cultural habits.

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