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Monday, January 16, 2012
Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

While driving to work the other day, I heard a newscast discussing the recent video of US Marines urinating on the bodies of fallen Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The announcer noted that the video had “gone viral” in the past day. In other words, people found it so interesting that word about it spread rapidly, like a virus. So, we have another new expression in our language courtesy of modern technology: viral videos.

Personally, I don’t spend much time watching videos on the internet. I’d rather read an article or view a still picture. I have more control over the narrative with those versus watching “dynamic imagery”. I guess that’s why I don’t watch a lot of TV nor go to the movies very often. There is a difference in the balance of power between “still media” and “dynamic media”, with videos, movies and TV shows having more control over what you take away from them.

But many people get bored very quickly, and dynamic imagery usually stimulates the brain much more than a book or a long magazine article. Thus the historical human tendency towards “voyeurism”, I guess.

Now we have viral videos to help fight boredom, along with traffic jams near car accidents (so that people coming the other way can look at all the mangled metal and maybe catch a glimpse of human suffering too) and all the lurid stuff that purveyors of sexual pornography offer (and also violence pornography). I’m not saying that movies and videos and TV shows are bad; many are quite good and edifying and useful. I have a small DVD collection, admittedly. It’s a question of getting a balanced mental diet, and viral videos seem like the visual equivalent of junk food. The craving for both are brought on by boredom; boredom is the common issue here.

Boredom is a negative feeling brought on by a lack of adequate mental stimulation. But what is “adequate mental stimulation”? This is not set by our biology, but by our own “state of mind”. If that is so, then we should be able to control our susceptibility to boredom. As a Zen meditation practitioner, I believe that we can do this. Zen meditation can be extremely boring; just sitting there for half an hour or so, focusing on your breathing in and breathing out. Nothing more (well, in theory anyway). If you can learn to appreciate just being awake, just being aware that you are alive, then nothing will be boring. OK, well, almost nothing.

But my bottom line here is that spiritual enlightenment is not some great peak experience. It is mostly just getting on with daily life, the stuff that bores most people. But getting on with life with a mind that does NOT find daily stuff boring. A mind that is taught to appreciate the gift of life and conscious being, a mind that doesn’t take this gift for granted. A mind that remembers, conscious life is not owed to us nor owned by us, so be thankful for every little glimmer of life that we do experience, no matter how repetitious or ordinary. It could come to an end at any time.

Again, this is not to say that the spiritually enlightened should not be concerned with US troops urinating on the bodies of those they killed in battle. The spiritually enlightened should be VERY concerned about such unenlightened behavior (especially since they are helping to pay for it through their taxes). The story itself deserves to “go viral”. But to need to watch every gory detail . . . that can be a virus on the soul, a very infectious and debilitating one.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:09 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, You do have a point about the media and its ability to “capture” the attention of the nation as a whole and about its negative effect—at times.

    However, I do think that there are times when videos go viral that a lot of good comes from that fact. A specific point is just the example you give of the Marines in Afghanistan urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. Without the YouTube video that went viral—and the media picking up the video and publishing it–the whole incident may have gone unreported and unnoticed. It does seem to me that quite quickly the Marines were identified and held responsible for their actions.

    If you recall, it was during the Vietnam War that the infamous MeLi (sp??) massacre took place. I remember it clearly. It took years for it to be made public, years for anyone to be held accountable as only one individual, a “whistle blower” of sorts, spoke about it some time after it occurred—and even then there was question of whether or not the “whistle blower” was telling the truth or not, and on and on. Entirely too much time went by before there was any accountability for that massacre.

    Nowadays, with videos going viral, such an event would have been made public fast and individuals would have been held responsible for their actions. We are speaking here of actions that require, by their nature, that justice be done for those so attacked.

    There have been several (which is way too many) such viral videos that happened in the Chicago area, where an individual was attacked (in fact there is one as I write this, showing on the TV news, where a high school student is being attacked by 6 teenagers). This incident could have simply disappeared in the mass of attacks on individuals in this area; instead it is being shown on TV, individuals are being identified, police are searching for the offenders, and with any real justice in this world, they will be held accountable for their actions.

    I should not leave out those videos that go viral that are just plain fun to watch. Seeing such a viral video once or twice will “do” it for me. Perhaps they are not the highest form of viral videos and may not perform a part in justice when a “bad” act has been done, but why not have a little fun too? Can’t see the harm in that.

    So, I do agree with you that much of TV is boring. In fact, I tend to think that, as watching TV bores people, they become depressed and unhappy—your recent blog about happiness comes to mind here. And yes, there is the element of schaudenfreud in a lot of what passes on TV as “entertainment”.

    But there *are* occasions—quite a few in fact—where videos go viral and bring to local and/or national attention something that requires justice. Most of these times, if the video had not gone viral, nobody would have been held accountable and/or responsible for their actions; and injustice would have been the result.

    Then too as regards entertainment TV, while I do agree with you that most of it is boring, there is a small amount of it that well done and worth the time one takes to watch it. I can become very interested in a program that deals with the complexity of life and tells (teaches?) me something about how to deal with it or is informative in some other way.

    If entertainment TV starts to bore me, there’s an easy way to handle that: Turn it off and read a book. Well, that’s my solution to that particular problem. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — January 17, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  2. Jim, Thinking over my above comments, I should add that I did not include the “there’s something wrong with this picture” aspect of so many of the postings on YouTube–especially those that go viral and that are of the “bad” varienty.

    For instance, why those Marines who urinated on the bodies of the Taliban is something that has one asking the question, “What’s wrong with this picture?” and adding, “in so many ways.” The action they have done and the fact that they actually boast about desecrating the bodies of men who, and find it such that they want the world to see what they have done. Admittedly the dead men are their enemies, but they are also human beings.

    And to bring things up to date on the Chicago incident where the 6 teenagers attacked one teenager to rob him: Today they have announced that 7 teenagers(including presumably the one tho participated by taking the video) have been arrested. Not sure about the charges yet. I hear, so far, one of the attackers is being charged as an adult. Yet, again, there is the question that makes one ask, “What’s wrong with this picture”–wrong in so many ways.

    These situations seem to me to be such that *everything* is wrong with the situation (or the “picture”). The one bright spot I can see in all of it is the fact, as I mentioned, at least some form of justice for the victims (and their families who also suffer) comes sooner rather than later. It does remain to be seen what the final result as regards justice will be. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — January 18, 2012 @ 11:47 am

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