Many years ago I knew an old lady who my sister used to board with. She was in her seventies perhaps, quite devoted to her christian religion and had never married. The house where they lived was near to the university I was studying at and so sometimes I went there to share dinner with them.
One evening the old lady asked me what I was doing after the meal and I said something like I would be returning back to my university room quite quickly to watch my favourite TV program. She asked me a bit about the program and we chatted away and we sort of agreed then that the reason why I liked it was that it was good entertainment.
Her next question startled me a bit.
“Why do you need entertainment?”
This last part of the conversation and my answer to her question is not very clear in my mind any more. I was still a student back then and I probably just dismissed her comments, went back to watch my television program and then had a good nights sleep.
Perhaps 20 years later, I went to a lecture given by some buddhist monks in my city. A comment of theirs stuck in my mind all these years later as well – just like my sister’s former land-lady’s has.
Someone from the audience asked the monks about addictions. Perhaps they had been struggling with an addiction of some sort and were trying to get their life back in order.
Once again, most of the monks’ answer has left my memory for I never thought the bulk of their reply, or indeed the question, applied to me. However, part of the monk’s answer has stayed with me all these years.
He said that everyone is addicted to something. It is only the addictions with more serious consequences that we focus on as a society, such as alcohol, drugs etc. But, the monk said, going to the movies or buying the latest fashion dress is just another form of addiction, in exactly the same way an alcoholic buys alcohol.
Whether it is a new dress or a bottle of whiskey or a movie ticket or some heroin – it doesn’t matter. All of these are forms of external stimulation of the self. If a dress or a movie was a truly rewarding experience, we wouldn’t rush out and buy a new and different version of it soon afterwards, as many people do. Cocaine or heroin stimulate people more than a movie does of course, but they are all simply different forms of external stimulation none-the-less.
It was years after this event with the monks that I remembered my sister’s land-lady’s question – why do you need entertainment? And why do we?
Is entertainment just another form of external stimulation that, if we were all more in tune with our “inner selves” – whatever that is – we could do without?
Are the ordinary life events we all indulge in – dining out, drinking, parties, gaming, movies, travelling – simply external distractions and stimulants that we unknowingly engage in, in order to mask or avert our attention away from some higher learning?
Are we all just living our lives according to various degrees of external stimulation as the monks alluded to?
What is the alternative and how do we get it?
All very big questions indeed.
I guess one of the things I have learned in life (or decided might be a better word) is that the answers to these big questions do not come from others, no matter how well meaning their intentions. We must find the answers ourselves.
Political and religious leaders, media outlets and professional commentators, even the education system all have their own agendas, which probably do not align with yours. Sometimes, agendas are hidden so as to not frighten off potential adherents.
It is only natural for most humans to outwardly present and walk within fairly narrow idealogical and philosophical boundaries. Because people like to feel safe and stay in familiar surroundings. Which is fine, as long as we realise what everyone’s agenda is when interacting with them.
And that is one of the biggest tragedies today – so many people only want to walk with and talk to others who have the same outlook as themselves. In this situation, no-one learns anything. Mistakes and atrocities from history are repeated because few people recognise “we have been here before”.
This is what I am seeing alot today. Historical atrocities being repeated in broad daylight for the same silly reasons. It is very frustrating.
Hopefully, you can help with my frustration by sharing these thoughts and ideas with your friends and family. And then maybe we can all stop the atrocities committed in our name.
Thanks for that :o)