My habit was this—wake up, make breakfast with my wife, and as she was going to work, I would read the day’s headlines from the “news,” and we would talk about it over the phone. Over recent months, especially the last several days, I felt like I was reading more news, and watching more news, and getting dumber as I slipped into a greater ennui.
So taking a partial cue from Walker Percy’s Dr. Thomas More in Love in the Ruins who gathered “cases of Early Times and Swiss Colony sherry . . . [and] the Great Books” for what More felt might be the end of the world, I plan on a modified version of this activity. Minus the Early Times, Swiss Colony, and staying at a Howard Johnson’s, but certainly with a mega dose of the Great Books, a resolution has occurred.
Some additional motivation comes from remembering a Neil Postman book I had read some years ago. Going back and looking at that marked up book, I was ashamed how much I had failed to live the wisdom of that work. Neil Postman, once advised in his book How to Watch The TV News, written twenty years ago, that “The ‘news’ is only a commodity, which is used to gather an audience that will be sold to advertisers.”
Think of events that bombard us for days and then not a sound. I had thought that it took Michael Jackson a month to die with all the coverage that “news event” received. Postman states, “No one is expected to take the news too seriously… tomorrow’s news will have nothing to do with today’s news. It is best if the audience has completely forgotten yesterday’s news. TV shows work best by treating viewers as if they were amnesiacs.”
Regarding the bias (and they are ALL biased), Postman argues, “TV is not what happened. It is what some man or woman who has been labeled a journalist or correspondent thinks is worth reporting.” The silly notion that media is objective was swallowed up with Fox news and MSNBC propaganda, and all media are on their heals.
Again, Postman contends, “The more information, the less significant information is. The less information, the more significant it is.” I decided to start my days not with information, but with truth and wisdom so as to enable me to be fully prepared when the information encountered tends toward the true and good, or tends toward the delusional propaganda. “The preparation for watching television news begins with the preparation of one’s mind through extensive reading.” So what little news I do watch or read or listen to in the years to come, will be tempered by significantly more reading of the greatest works ever written so my mind is better prepared.
So starting a few days ago, my new morning ritual is breakfast with my wife, time with the daily lectionary, and reading from the Great Books of which I’ll be blogging more. News will get a few minutes a month, if that much.
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.