I recently re-read Fahrenheit 451, on the day of Bradbury’s death. It had been probably thirty years since I’d last picked it up. In reading it now, I was disturbed by how close our society has come to what he envisioned. He described wall-sized televisions that featured reality TV shows lacking plot lines, in which the characters fought incessantly over nothing. Viewers were strangely addicted to this nonsense, while simultaneously becoming numbed out to art and beauty. And of course books were illegal. Today, those wall-sized reality shows are a reality. Books aren’t illegal, but they seem to be of less importance, and bestsellers are often “written” by celebrities and reality show stars.
I have a theory about what’s happening in our country today. We are addicted to negativity. It’s not our fault, really. It’s what we’ve been spoon fed through our media- day in and day out. We are hooked on the little rush of fear we get when we see the “breaking news alert” across the bottom of our TV screen. Our ears perk up at the sound of the dramatic music that accompanies it. We “relax” by watching TV crime shows about murders and rapes, or reality shows full of backstabbing and betrayals. If it’s true that we are what we eat, then it’s also true that we are what we ingest with our brains. It’s no wonder we can hardly imagine an optimistic future, for ourselves or for the world. If we can’t envision it, we can’t make it happen.
I don’t watch negative TV shows for this reason, but I do follow the news, usually by reading online, listening to NPR or watching CNN. But even that is too much sometimes. Every once in a while, I feel myself becoming toxic from it, the negativity building up inside of me. So I have to go on a “cleanse”, which means a “news fast”. Yes, that’s right, I tune out for a whole week or so, and you know what? When I tune back in it’s the same old stuff; the headlines blaring about face-eating zombies, always planting seeds of fear in our minds to keep us tuned in, “Are your children at risk?” “What you don’t know may kill you” blah blah blah…and always, always, the politicians at each others throats and the country on the verge of financial collapse.
I don’t want my kids to grow up in a Fahrenheit 451-world. If we want a better world it has to start with each of us as individuals. If we can find peace in our own minds, then it expands to our lives, and those around us, and so on. Or so the theory goes. It’s a theory worth testing.
I’m going to try an experiment this week. I’m tuning out the negativity. (Sadly, even NPR has to go.) I’ll read books that inspire me or broaden my knowledge. I’ll start each day reading only good news and heartwarming stories. I’ll only watch television that educates and uplifts. In doing so, I hope to balance out what our media has done to my brain. It will be interesting to see what follows, and if there appears to be any change in my brain chemistry.
Anyone want to join me in this week-long experiment? Here are some good places to start: