Thursday, August 27, 2009

Where fantasy and reality collide

This morning I heard my 3 year old announcing at some unearthly hour " Time to wake up" in a very loud voice . At first I thought oh no, not now but then it got me thinking. It is Elul after all:) A friend of mine once read to me something very astute from a book called Holy Diet or something like that. The author wrote that it used to be that art imitated life but these days you find that it is life that is imitating art. For example a person watches a movie and gets a certain picture of reality from it and then attempts to apply those ideas or values to his life most often resulting in great disappointment because of course the picture that the movie projects is not a picture of true reality. Rabbi Abraham Twerski M.D., who is a psychiatrist, writes in his books that many emotional pathologies result from a person having a wrong perception of reality, such as lack of self-esteem or addiction. When a person is totally incapable of differentiating between reality and fantasy in a very extreme way, we call it insanity. Besides inducing a really distorted view of reality, movies, computer games, video games, etc. are extremely addictive and are often a callosal waste of time . Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen in his book to Kindle a Soul has statistics and cites studies to support that thesis. One of the things that I found particularly striking was a study that showed that even if a person was just staring at a blank screen his metabolism rate dropped. Watching something, therefore is basically a training in passivity, to sit and do nothing while someone else is imposing their view of reality on you. A lot of Judaism is about actions, that's why there are so many mitzvos. We are supposed to work on ourselves both internally and externally. We are not supposed to be passive observers, but active participants in life. Sefer Hachinuch writes that a person makes himself into something according to his actions. Therefore good actions make a good person and empty actions an empty one. To spend one's life on emptiness while perverting one's sense of true reality and self is a terrible thing. When a person is reading a book of value he needs to make an effort to create a mental image, to react to what he is reading somehow, to digest the information but with videos etc. all the work, including thinking is done for you. And I am not even talking about inappropriate content. That is why I am against too much regular watching of anything even educational stuff. Same for video games and hours of internet surfing. It is true especially for young children but even older ones, when they are still developing their fundamental habits and views that will shape their future lives. It's true for adults as well. My daughter was right, it's time to wake up.


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