A line in the October issue of The Sun caught my eye. “I’d been reluctant to read The Long Emergency because I’d feared it would be debilitating..”
I have often avoided certain movies, television shows or books because I feared that they would be depressing. I think that most of the time, that was not the word that I was looking for. Sure, some things are just complete downers, mostly because sometimes they make me despair for the human race as in “Is this really who we are or we’ve become?” But, I think that the word debilitating is a more accurate word for what I would like to avoid. Debilitate means to hinder, delay, weaken. I don’t want that in my life. I need all the movement and strength that I can get.
A few years ago, friends of mine were all watching The Sopranos. They really wanted me to see it, but I resisted. I just couldn’t see that I would find it entertaining or helpful. But, each year it won awards upon awards and I figured that all of those critics/experts couldn’t be wrong so I picked up the first disc. I was somewhat hooked. The whole idea of a mafia boss having marital and childrearing problems after a long day of extortion and murder and then having panic attacks that sent him to therapy made me have this, “hey, we all have some things in common” kind of experience and I kept watching. Eventually, though, the series got darker and darker. I remember one day I was exercising and watching. Annie came through and I said, “Get out! Get out! You can’t see this.” It wasn’t the first time that she had heard this. That day she stood there and said, “I don’t think you should be watching this Mom. I don’t think that it’s good for you.” She stated what my heart already knew and very shortly afterward, I gave it up.
Did the Sopranos hinder me? Weaken me? When I think about how I felt after watching it there was a heaviness in me, maybe even a darkness. In her profile Pollinatrix over at The Whole Blooming World talks about being accused of trying to find “way too much meaning in life”, something that I am guessing that most of my readers are guilty of as well. I watched the Sopranos and I looked for the deeper meaning, the lessons that I might apply to my own life. I tried to feel compassion for people who are bumbling around in the dark, hurting each other. But the price was too high to my mind, my spirit and I think, even my body.
Inappropriate is a word that we use a lot with our kids in regard to movies and television shows. Inappropriate generally means that there is strong sex or violence in the movie. But, my 13 year old, a smart boy, says to us, “Why is it appropriate for you and not for me?” And we come back with the tried and true, “Because you’re not mature enough”. I am afraid that the truest answer to Tim’s question, in many cases, is, “It isn’t appropriate for me.” It isn’t helpful. The apostle Paul put it this way: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” But that sounds so boring! So preachy and puritanical. Probably most of us think that the Apostle Paul was too uptight and wouldn’t have been any fun to hang out with any way. Can’t we just have a little fun?
Maybe some of us think that the Buddha would be a little easier to be around. Well, the Buddhists would call the choices we make between what is true and lovely and that which is less so skillful or unskillful. Unskillful choices lead to suffering. Skillful choices will lead to peace and happiness. And not just for me, possibly for the whole world. I’m pretty sure that Paul and Siddartha are saying the same thing.
What are your experiences? Are there examples of violent movies or television shows that you feel have been helpful to you and of spiritual benefit? What sorts of things feel inappropriate to you? Maybe you have less obvious examples of things in our world that might be debilitating for us. I would love to hear.