Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Your Television and You, Part I

I recently returned to a classic in Biblical scholarship: Julius Wellhausen's Prolegomenon to the History of Ancient Israel. The book, while containing a number of problematic errors, remains a primary reference for scholarship, despite being now nearly a century and a half old. This is one remarkable aspect of this book. The second is that W was not yet 30 when he published it. Now, it is not uncommon for a wunderkind to publish some original piece of work at a young age. This, however, is the product of incredible industry: W is thoroughly versed in several ancient languages, has virtually the entire Pentateuch and Prophets memorized and is completely current in a wide variety of secondary writings on scripture, many of which emply arguments difficult to untangle.

How to account for this prodigious effort? Where did he find the time to do this?

I for one wonder how W would fare if he had been raised in our contemporary situation where the average American spends four hours a day watching television. Now, to be just, not everyone has the capacity for the kind of work that W was famous for. But how many of us can claim that our time is better spent if we watch TV?

I bring this up today because I personally see television as one of the major culprits in a wide and pervasive cultural malaise in which we are fast losing touch with the wellsprings of our culture.

I would like, over the next few days or weeks, to write down for you some of my arguments against television-viewing. I will begin by admitting how easy it is to fall into the habit. I can't promise you that I would be so fastidious as I am today were I not in a monastery. On the other hand, I am perplexed and even occasionally distressed by the fact that there is almost no legitimate critical reflection on the fact that people spend more time watching TV than reading books, exercising, praying, cooking, sewing, growing flowers, playing piano, memorizing poetry or fishing. Which activities are those that make human life human and worth living? What are the consequences of this addiction to television? What can we do about it? I will offer my own thoughts for those who are interested.

Peace to you! As always, I invite you to visit our website here.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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