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Media at Fault? Or Default?

In recent years one has heard the media blamed for everything from excessive violence, foul language and sex available to children and to the ruining of elections, reputations, and the truth itself. But is the media at fault? Or is it rather the default state of human beings to dig for dirt, amplify gossip and promote our own subjective world views?

 

What if you woke up one morning, checked out the news and a totally different report was on your screen? What if the lead story proclaimed that, “Today one billion blades of grass, two million stars, and one million babies were born.” What if the news then continued to list amazing achievements not only by human beings but by animals, insects, and the universe itself–all magically transpiring since yesterday’s news.

 

We tend to accept that the default status of media emphasis will be “slash, flash, crash and trash…for cash.”   But what if we encouraged producers, directors, writers, editors, journalists, and audiences alike to pursue and emphasize the inspiring, the noble, and the hyper-creative?  What if we were not so anthropocentric and included the news of the galaxies and dolphins, of the rainbows and rivers? What if our award systems, promotion departments, and box office successes all pointed toward our more elevated Selves, rather than our animalistic brutality and coarse instincts?

 

You may argue that such attempts at positive media would likely lose money, subscribers and ratings. And yet, I’d like to draw your attention to some creative exceptions, most of which are available on-line and some of which are currently in production.

 

Who hasn’t heard of Oprah and Dr. Phil?  Whatever your view of their complete series, many of their episodes inspired millions of viewers to look up, take responsibility, experience healing and change their lives for the better. Check out TV programs like the drama, Touched by an Angel and the broadcast services of Joel Olsteen which are also uplifting to viewers worldwide.

 

For over thirty years David Freudberg in New England has been creating radio programs aired on NPR about people who make a difference. For many years David Smith in Cincinnati produced WGNN, the World Good News Network which featured positive stories about creative catalysts of change worldwide.

 

How about Chris Conangla, who hosted Neighbor for Neighbor, a pro-social news segment on WBZ-TV in Boston and was then aired in larger markets? Or what about Robin Goodrow’s successful puppetry for children aired on KRON in San Francisco?  Many of these programs were innovative and award-winning humane narratives which raised our standards.

 

Then there are the long lists of creative media which this blog , “Media That Matters,”  has already featured–films such as A United Kingdom,  Gandhi, The Letters,  Camelot,  Chariots of Fire, Race, Eddie the Eagle, A Day in the Country, Pas de Deux, H2O, Panta Rhei, Man of La Mancha, Life is Beautiful, and Father Sun, Sister Moon, and many more.

 

And what of the literally thousands of songs and symphonies we experience through the media which light up human lives? Whether it is ballet, rock, musical theater, rap, jazz, modern dance, classical, a cappella, or film sound tracks, there are songs and scores which elevate and crack open the heart. No matter whether the music is heard via broadcast radio, I-Tunes, headsets, CDs, Mp3s, satellite radio, or soundtracks for TV and film, we can be transported to a more heavenly atmosphere just by listening to media that matter.

 

So the question is not whether the media is at fault but rather what type of media we create and support? Where do I place my attention? There are literally thousands of websites, songs, films, programs, articles, books, blogs, etc., which I can ingest and share which light up human lives. And there are just as many, if not more, which can take you down into a world of worry, nightmares and depression about the world condition.

 

A few years ago I wrote a book called Fast Media/Media Fast in which I discussed our ability to create our own “cultural nutrition.”  Just as we decide what to eat and drink to be healthy, we can create our own playlists and personal media mix to stay mentally and emotionally balanced as well. If my default consumption pattern is nothing but horror movies, world tragedies, soap operas, losing sports teams, and tabloid news then the odds are I will carry a dark cloud in consciousness. Such cultural malnutrition not only can take me down but also subconsciously transmitted to those around me.

 

The great writer Norman Cousins seemed intuitively aware of “cultural nutrition” when he came down with a crippling disease.  If you’d like to read an inspiring book, read Cousins’ Anatomy of an Illness about how he checked himself out of the hospital after his health did not improve.  Cousins began to treat his own illness with mega doses of Vitamin C and with endless episodes of the TV program Candid Camera. The famous essayist found that the endless laughter produced by watching a hilarious program (still available via YouTube, etc.) provided greater healing in his case than any medical approaches.

 

Although I am not advocating Cousins’ cure for every condition, I am recommending that we can each take conscious responsibility for our media input and output. Each can have an enormous influence on our heart and health and those we serve. One does not have to be sentenced to a life of imbibing what the average American consumes–over four years of TV advertising alone in a lifetime. Instead, we can each make conscious choices and self-diagnose the best media “dosages,” content and consumption rhythms that allow us to heal ourselves and others.

 

When you change the default switch, it becomes harder to scapegoat all that is out there, including the “alternative facts” of electronic media.  Ultimately, I create media choices by 1) what I decide to consume and 2) what I choose to create. What is out there is a reflection of my own consciousness so why not be conscious in my choices about media dieting, fasting, and feasting?

 

Why overdose on media junk food when there is so much electronic health food available? My awareness of my own primal spirituality depends not only upon an open heart and mind but also upon clear vision and pure consciousness. After all, we human beings are the medium upon which all other media depend.


TOM COOPER is currently guest scholar at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Stanford and Berkeley and professor at Emerson College (Boston).  Musician, black belt, and playwright, he has written eight books and two hundred published articles, been advisor to the Elders Project (with Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others),  co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is co-publisher of MEDIA ETHICS magazine.

The Magic of the Mind

In considering the differences between the mind and the heart, the thinking and the feeling capacities, the importance of surrendering the mind to the heart is often mentioned. Sometimes it can come across as if the heart is more important than the mind. Usually, when referring to the mind, we are talking about the outer conscious mind. However, both the heart and mind have their own specific function and purpose. Yet, when anything tries to play a part that is not actually its part to play inside of a creative cycle, everything gets thrown off. I think it is important for us to recognize what parts we have, how they work and how to operate them in a way that works within the whole. If we are operating in a harmonic co-creative flow with the whole, then we are able to perceive what is wanting to be born and expressed from a larger picture.

 

I believe the conscious mind has a very unique and powerful job because of something called free will. The conscious mind is endowed with the power of choice and has with it the ability to use logic and reasoning to figure things out. But it is also very limited in its perspective—we can only see so much. We only really understand a portion of what is going on, whether you are looking at the big-scale pictures of the world or the little-scale pictures inside of your life and everyday relationships. An example is when you drive on a road, you can see everything around you in your scope of vision and respond to what is in front of you. However, with GPS you can also be aware of what is coming up even though you cannot yet see it.

 

We also have feelings, which are connected to everything because it is all energy. It is all vibration, and feelings sense into that. We have something that happens within us as humans, in the subconscious mind and heart space, where we run programs like a computer. We learn how to get a result and then we think we have learned how things work. So we create a little equation and run a program to operate by: “Okay, when this happens, then I do this, and this is the way it plays out.” And then that operational program runs in the background automating our thoughts, feelings and actions until checked and changed. We have some programs that are foundational and we add to those as well as creating new ones as we learn and grow. This is the habitual nature and what we call the ego. It is the programmed reactionary response. Some of these programs or habits are productive and some of them are not.

We also have this amazing connection to Spirit and Light that brings a divine identity of Who We Are as Beings of Love. There is information that is coming in all the time, guidance to help direct us on our path so that we are able to be the fullest version of ourselves and have the greatest impact in our world. Higher forces of these invisible realms want to help us learn and grow to see and understand more than what the conscious mind sees and understands simply of itself. Insight, inspiration, intuition—that is where all this stuff comes from. And it is connected to us through the feelings.

When those higher-vibrational impulses are coming through and wanting to inspire us, if we open up and feel into them and allow them to actually infiltrate (infill-trate) through the heart into the mind, then that is an experience of seeing with the heart. The mind responds to the vibrational radiation, some pictures come together and new understandings form. This doesn’t happen necessarily because I am thinking about it and trying to figure it out. I am simply sensing and feeling into the vibrations and allowing something to come together within my awareness.

And that is a choice. The mind is responsible for that choice. It likes to get wrapped up in all kinds of stuff going on in our world and think about things over and over. It can be likened to a dog gnawing on a bone or chasing its own tail. This happens to all of us as the circular, busy mind can easily fall into that space if not trained otherwise. So the conscious mind does have a job to do. The job of slowing down, relaxing, becoming still, and then pointing the direction of attention. And that is all a part of choice. Because in a moment, there could be inspiration coming down or there could be reaction coming up. How do we know the difference of which one to follow?

Well, the mind is not always great at figuring out the difference. I don’t think that is actually its job. The mind is pretty good at tricking itself. But if we feel into what is coming up inside of us—whether it is coming up, coming down, it is there in our awareness—and feel into the vibration of where it is coming from. What are the feelings of the energies that are associated with this feeling and/or thought? The feelings can reveal the answer, yet the mind has the job of asking the questions. The questions open up the space to look for the answer. We get in our own way often because we think that we already know, and most of the time we don’t. So we block off the possibility for further knowing. If we are willing to question ourselves, to question our reality, to question beliefs and perceptions of what we think is true, to question the different voices that are coming up, and to feel into the answer… Well, I think we are playing a different game then, because we are operating consciously and using the mind and heart in its right usage. The heart holds the knowing and yet it needs the mind’s cooperation, direction and discernment.

This practice is not a ten-minute a day meditation, it is a meta-practice. It is not a practice where you set aside a little time each day and say, “Okay, now I am going to feel into my feelings and be guided and then I’m going to go back to work.” This is a practice that is applied every moment. It is building the faculty of becoming conscious. We want to be masterful in our lives, do we not? And this time, probably more so than at any other time in human history, is calling forth for Masters. It is calling forth from each one of us, to step up, to regenerate and restore this world, and to be the clear channel of a human lightning rod for spiritual expression to birth in form. That requires us to show up a little differently than we have been, to be more conscious.

 

I think it is really good to know how to do something, and it is also really good to know what can get in the way. I see three ways that we have choice with how we respond to the programmed patterns that show up in us as reactions. 1) Making no choice at all is still a choice. We can continue to be unconscious and allow ourselves to be completely run by habitual function, doing what we’ve always done, running on automatic. Whatever patterns have already been programmed are just going to continue to run, because you are not really in the driver’s seat of your own life. Each one of us has tasted that experience in some way. I believe that we want to become more and more conscious every day in every way. So that is one choice, but not a good one if you want to consciously cause change.

When something comes up from the reactive self, from the old programming, something that no longer serves, you can be aware of it. 2) You can choose to fight against it. You can “try” to change it. You can focus your attention on this thing that you don’t like in yourself and struggle and wrestle with it. You can stay in that state for a very long time. “Where your attention goes, your energy flows, and that thing grows.” By fighting it, all you are doing is strengthening that which you don’t want by focusing on the energy of resistance. “What you resist persists.”

3) You can be aware of the habitual pattern but not respond to it. Choose something else to give your attention to. Focus on what you want to develop and create, not what you  want to get rid of or change. The old patterns will slowly fall away once you stop giving them attention because you are instead programming a new pattern by making intentional choices in a different direction. Choose into those higher feelings. Choose into the inspiration. Choose into divine identity and spiritual expression, by dwelling with those feelings and letting them guide what wants to be birthed through the mind, through the body, through the actions, through the life.

We have a great responsibility and a great joy. This time is also one of the most available times in human history for rapid acceleration and growth. I think that is essentially what self-mastery is about: learning and growth, application and practice, from moment to moment. Mastery is a journey, not a destination. And as each one of us becomes more conscious, intentionally choosing and increasing in personal mastery, so do we also increase the presence of God on Earth.

 


Gary Goodhue is a student and teacher of consciousness and creation. He focuses on bringing deep principles of Truth and Love into practical, every day application. The results are increased presence, clarity, peace, focus and power.

EMILY DICKENSON AND THE POETRY OF THE SPHERES

Emily Dickenson enthusiasts have long awaited the recently released movie, A Quite Passion, the 2017 biopic by Terence Davies. Unlike most feature film-making, “Passion” is unafraid to be somber, static and stiff in an attempt to capture the sedentary rhythms of nineteenth century western Massachusetts where Dickinson grew up and old.

For those craving a biopic about the hermetic Emily, this is a rare treat of what it could well have been like to live in her community, house and skin.  We feel her pain, gain, and loneliness in the growing absence of her health, the presence of her family and only a handful of outsiders who came to call.

From time to time excerpts of Dickenson poetry are inserted into the narration, no doubt to the delight of lovers of the arts and letters. Each snippet of known verse seems significant and well timed. It is no wonder that critics from the New York Times and leading film journals praised the unbending study of stasis and subtlety.

And yet, while I screened A Quiet Passion, I felt something was missing. From the standpoint of my fundamental humanity I kept drifting further away from contentment and fulfillment viewing this film. In a word, there is only so much sterility, anomie, and stagnation that one may tolerate before one’s own inner poetry becomes stale. With all respect to Davies, and to the exceptional lead performance by Cynthia Nixon, I kept wondering what kind of aspirational and inspirational poetry could be breathed through a film if, unlike Dickinson and Davies, it could overcome a growing fear of seeing sunlight?

What about  Bert Haanstra’s important 1951 film Panta Rhei  (All Things Flow) in which no words are spoken, no actors cast in roles, and no anthropocentric focus is given to just one species?  The film exists as if to say “there is a poetry to the universe which is best seen, not spoken.” Although Haanstra’s film is only ten minutes long, like poetry itself, and like Dickinson, large statements come in small packages.

Another exciting visual poem, Ralph Steiner’s twelve minute short, H2O, is a silent meditation about water created before sound was added to moving images. One could go on to list dozens of “visions” by gifted tone artists which evoke poetry more than “tell” it. Thanks to the Internet, most of these are widely available at no cost.

Somehow, I feel closer to (the) god(s) when seeing poetry, than hearing about it,  and when hearing poetry, rather than seeing about it. There are many truly poetic media and I do not mean to strike A Quiet Passion from that list.

But it takes a true upward surrender to bring “Heaven” to “earth” through poetic sound/image montage and so I want to reference moments which are filmic odes to beauty. What about the images of ladies in the swings and boats in the water in Renoir’s classic, A Day in the Country? What about the exquisite, symbolic ballet with special effects in Norman McLaren’s Pas de Deux? Or what about the searing words of James Baldwin, laid bare as narrative for the recent documentary I Am Not Your Negro?

All of these suggest that there are many ways to bring the profoundly poetic to the world of moving images. Perhaps all these forms of cine-poetry awaken us to primal spirituality in different ways. Like a dog’s ears raised to hear a higher vibration, my heart’s ears lift to a different height and in different ways when I sense the heightened poetic. But I am not sure it is enough to record an actor speaking a poem or to portray the life of a famous poet to evoke that knowing of the sublime.

It is hard to argue with those who assert that the greatest verbal poetry came from the pen of someone(s) called William Shakespeare. Most of the greatest renderings of Bard poetry in cinema are widely available–with top honors often given to any leading role by Lawrence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh.

But I am thinking in this moment of the under-rated portrayal of Portia by Lynn Collins in the 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. As Bard’s voice, Portia (Collins) spoke these words

The quality of mercy is not strained;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath.

It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…

And so it is with poetry that matters. Whether written by Dickinson or Shakespeare with ink or by Haanstra or McLaren with celluloid, it blesses “him that gives and him that takes;” those who created and those who are elevated by hearing the truth delivered with such economy and grace. Long may the poetry of primal spirituality continue to pour forth as “the gentle rain from heaven.”


TOM COOPER is currently guest scholar at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Stanford and Berkeley and professor at Emerson College (Boston).  Musician, black belt, and playwright, he has written eight books and two hundred published articles, been advisor to the Elders Project (with Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others),  co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is co-publisher of MEDIA ETHICS magazine.

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