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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The End of Time (Why I Need to Run Away)

The reading part of my intellectual endeavor has suffered greatly this year. I have not read as much, even at times consciously choosing not to read or set time out to read. I am not quite sure why this is; perhaps the teaching and the reflective type writing I've been doing occupies most of my waking hours. Regardless of this, I do need to escape. I don't want to go off on a rant about current events and the ridiculousness of media, politics and travesties of justice which seem to flood our sources of information. Nevertheless, I watch the news every day, and, as it has become a habit, come away feeling desolate and depressed. Why watch the news, then? My network of preference (not because I like it but because it strikes me the most biased and light-headed) is NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. It's amazing how the news directors at NBC structure the news order and even the rhetoric used--much opinion swaying and pitching takes place every evening. Many have told me that "Fox News is much worse." To them I say, yes, absolutely, Fox, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc. are all so biased it's hard to make heads or tails from the news items they broadcast. Nothing infuriates me more than NBC giving a platform to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, a man notorious for his "Holocaust denial" and for stating (several times) that Israel needs to be wiped out from the world map. It's amazing to me how Brian Williams can sit across this person and ask question after question even though we all know the answers. Why do we need to hear from Ahmadinejad that there's boiling point political and social issues that threaten to destabilize the Middle East more than it's already? Any person with a conventional knowledge of the middle east and its challenges can say as much. One comes out of these reports with a sense of dread... is the world really down a slippery slope toward ultimate destruction? Perhaps.

Five minutes before Nightly News ends, the segment titled "Making a Difference" airs on NBC. This is a "feel good" segment, always at the end of the news, as if to tell us, "please join us tomorrow for 25 minutes of dreadfulness, and 5 minutes of "feel good therapy." Everything is confusing. Everything is terribly, terribly negative. Everything is full of despair and sadness. Everything, that is, but literature.

We need to escape; it's a fact that most people seek succor by means of something significant to them. The preferences, of course, are unique depending on the personality of the individual. Some run to negative resources: alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc. Yet, despite the statistics, I believe that most people want to run away to something they love, more than just running away to mere escapism. This is not a new argument (or a new rant); perhaps the oldest ritual in the history of humanity (depending on levels and systems of belief) is religion. People who do not believe in God taunt the believers, subscribing to the idea that believers run to God because they don't want to take responsibility for their own actions or problems. Religion as the great opium of the masses, right? Recently, there were reports of young people using a digital drug called "iDozer." This is comprised of mp3 files that emit a certain frequency and white-noise with the frequency level adjusted to achieve the correct effect. There are as many flavors as there are vices: marijuana, cocaine, Valium, orgasm and lucid dream, to list some of them. We need to escape--plain and simple.

I am not reading enough these days and it's got me thinking. am I no better than other "escape artists?" Who decides which escape is right and which one is wrong or damaging to the individual. Years ago, I had a student who suffered from all different issues of depression, panic attacks, paranoia, etc. This student was "allowed" to "draw" in class and listen to music on his iPod because it was part of his therapy. Many of my colleagues thought it was a sham, a ruse. They could not understand what the drawing did, or what it was that the music soothe. Personally, while I didn't entire understand, part of me learned to be curious about the student's drawings, or what he was listening to in his iPod. Two years later, when that same student committed suicide, we no longer wondered what type of escape he needed. It was a shame, really, that one so young could be so misunderstood to the point of feeling life has no meaning. We cannot judge what is a good or bad escape, especially when it comes to this degree, but we must learn to acknowledge the fact that escaping (and here I mean with methods of escaping that foster our humanity, soothes our soul and helps us cope and grow) is essential. We must understand that the complexities of this modern (often cruel) world will not relent; we are in it for the long haul. As a result, I am embracing Bach on my iPod and grabbing my Moleskine notebook for a journey into escapism.

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