Vanity thought #608. News trash

A few days ago The Guardian published an article that explains in simple terms things that have been bothering me for quite a while. They argue that news is bad for you, that consuming it is as bad for your consciousness as overindulgence is for your stomach. Basically, it’s junk food for your mind.

I post something here every day and I’ve been struggling to come with new material all the time. I assumed it’s just a natural problem but actually it isn’t, it’s the news that has been killing my “creativity”.

The author gives a dozen of reasons how news negatively affect our consciousness, some of them are more credible than others but the overall effect of his presentation is quite convincing. The first few are striking – news misleads, has no explanatory power, and is irrelevant.

In order to present the story in a tidy, easily consumable tidbit that immediately catches your attention it needs to be separated from reality. It has to be worked from the end, from the desired effect and then stripped of all complexity and inconsistencies that are always present in real life. The saying “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” didn’t come out from nothing.

So, what usually happens is that popular news does not explain anything, just grabs your attention, and it stresses rather irrelevant facts for the sake of publicity. You will never learn anything useful from it, which is the next point on the list.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this point but perhaps it’s true – for all the times we tell each other “did you hear that…?” it has never ever changed our decisions and behavior in real lives, and this argument leads to the point that I found relevant both to our vaishnava discourse and to my personal difficulties with writing.

To produce something substantial, be it an argument in a debate or stand-alone article, we need to contemplate the subject matter for quite a while. We need to reflect on it, internalize it, scout our long-term memory for supporting information, do some research etc. etc. This is how we can easily gain benefits from discussing Krishna consciousness related topics.

The news, however, distracts and blocks our minds from engaging in any kind of reflective meditation. Its effect is detrimental regardless whether it’s mundane or vaishnava related news. I’m sure everyone reading this has tried to purify his news stream by subscribing to Krishna conscious blogs or friending and following other devotees, in my personal experience it’s still a waste of time.

If devotees post something substantial and it appears in my stream, this news catches me in the wrong state of mind – when I’m busy looking for easily digested tidbits, and if I force myself to sit down and read I feel guilty that I’m missing everything else.

The long and medium term effect of news consumption is that it slowly rewires our brains not to think deeply about anything, and it’s a very dangerous development for our Krishna consciousness. Very few of us have the ability to become scholars but each and every one of us has to spend time on getting the meaning of the words of our guru and Srila Prabhupada into our brains.

We need strong intelligence to control our minds, that’s why Krishna talks so much about buddhi-yoga in Bhagavad Gita, and intelligence comes from Krisha. Oh, wait, that’s not what I wanted to say – intelligence comes from properly digesting the words of our acharyas. When the mind presents us with its temptations we don’t have time to think and remember, our intelligence response should be swift and decisive.

To give an example – we subconsciously know that hitting a woman is prohibited, no matter what happens we just can’t raise our hand on old people, women, and children, that’s a part of our education, we’ve been taught about it from the very early age.

We should have the same resolute, automatic response when the mind offers a chance to spend some time alone with the member of the opposite sex but we all know that it rarely happens. We always exploit bits of uncertainty left in our intelligence – maybe a married person is allowed to be alone with women, maybe it’s okay if the woman is not of mating age, maybe it’s okay for the sake of possible preaching, and so on. Or when someone invites us to a spiritual program featuring non-devotees. They will talk about Krishna, maybe there will be a kirtan, maybe we can tell someone about Krishna consciousnesses – so many possible excuses.

Perhaps I can summarize this in a following way – consuming news, vaishnava or otherwise, strengthens our minds. Ignoring news and concentrating on deep, penetrating books and articles strengthens our intelligence. Who wants a strong, unconquerable mind – subscribe to all news feeds you want. I will try to reduce news reading to a minimum.

2 comments on “Vanity thought #608. News trash

  1. Pingback: Vanity thought #859. Disappointing disenchantment | back2krishna

  2. Pingback: Vanity thought #894. Blue Sunday | back2krishna

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