The Media Eco-System

I heard the term ‘media eco-system’ used the other day and got to thinking about what that might encompass.

An eco-system as I understand it, consists of a complexity of mutually dependent inter-acting parts that constitute a ‘whole’ and embodies an aspect if not the totality of the realities of the organisms within. The media eco-system provides us captives a diverse selection of socio-cultural perspectives that demand belief, rejection, adherence or refutation of the sensational often incendiary information conveyed, pushing those of us locked into the media world toward extremes of opinion and behaviors not to mention paranoia.

I’ve come to realize the media eco-system is essentially oppositional by design, generating anger that insures the rabid following necessary to the systems’ sustainability. So, I wonder, how do I stay informed about the things that matter these days without getting sucked into the vile vortex.

I guess, to be fair, not all news presentation is sensationalized. I’ll just have to look harder to find a fair and balanced coverage. (Not sure, but I think that might be the slogan of one of the more egregious sources.)

A Deep Sense of Place

I’ve been reading about the villagers of rural Sumatra who have occupied their ancestral lands for generations. The rich volcanic soil and abundant rainfall have provided reliable rice production for families to remain in place for a thousand years or more. Such an extended presence has led these folks to develop deep spiritual connection to the land. Beliefs have developed over time securing a sense of peace and common bond among these rural farmers. Tabus have evolved to ward off ill-fortune, rituals, past down over the generations, are performed to appease nature’s gods.

How incredible it must be to have such a deep sense of place, a conception almost unimaginable for Scandinavian transplants like me, so far removed from any place we might think of as ancestral. We immigrants can, of course, understand our inherent ties to nature traceable back to our primordial past, our single-celled ancestors, but we lack the personal connection to place, the spiritual and physical continuity of the Sumatran villagers.

Things change. The aggressive influx of the revealed religions undermines traditional beliefs, interrupt respect for local sacred places. Growing populations force more villagers to commute to jobs in the city where material values take hold and village life loses it’s sense of cultural autonomy.

I guess it will always be the case that new ideas will eventually disrupt old beliefs, for better or worse.

Living a Lie

In light, these days, of the steady questioning of the validity and truthfulness offered through the public narrative, what with ‘fake news’ and ‘the big lie’ before us on nearly a daily basis I find it interesting that I have recently been approached by a friend who, in another context, suggests everyone is ‘living a lie’.

The idea that one is ‘living a lie’ implies deliberate subterfuge, a conscious intent to deceive and mustn’t be confused with a distracted pre-occupation with life’s minor difficulties, losing track of the Big Picture resulting in identity crises: an entirely different issue.

I think my friend’s idea must be meant within a religious context: something about the lack of acknowledgement of the Truth of the Christian message or some such. The implications are, pretty clearly, that we all should recognize our inherently sinful natures, focus on our frailties and failings and seek forgiveness so we may exalt in our redemption through God’s good graces.

There’s certainly something to be said for seeking and finding respite on occasion when life’s pressures become particularly difficult as they do for all of us of normal cognitive functioning, but it seems unnecessary for one to embrace blind commitment at the expense of freedom of thought and action.

Realizing Relevance

I recall reading years ago a comment written by Kurt Vonnegut in one of his novels, I forget which one, that, although we all suffer through life’s inequities, in the end all anyone really wants is to be granted a bit of dignity. I sense deep truth in this idea but lately I’ve been thinking that realizing some sort of relevance may be more important.

These thoughts come to mind as I wonder, lately, about my own relevance: no longer in the ‘work force’, disengaged from many of my former social interactions, occupying myself with activities many would think, I suspect, of being little more than playtime. I live comfortably in retirement with the basic benefits afforded anyone who has worked most of his/her life, but is it enough? Should I be doing more by contributing my vast accumulated knowledge and skills to the proliferation of alienated misdirected youth so apparent everywhere one looks?

As I think about my own alienated misdirected youth and the skepticism with which I viewed the opinions of my elders whose life experiences might have been worthy of my consideration, I’m inclined to live with my questionable relevance and just accept the slight dignity age allows.

The Beauty of Rationalization

I’ve been thinking, lately, about the nature of consumer capitalism and how it tends to disenfranchise tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. Folks who are, on the whole, perfectly functional individuals, who have been caught in an impossible financial bind not always of their own making, find themselves unable to provide basic human needs, particularly shelter.

I’ve been reading about a large sub-culture of nomads living in various mobile vehicles who rely on scant social security payments and taxing seasonal employment to make ends meet. The dilemma has me wondering how these folks, who have not chosen to ‘drop out’ in order to exploit the social safety net but rather work in order to maintain an autonomy, deserve such a tenuous existence.

Convinced as I am of the oppressive predicament suffered by thousands, of whom I’ve been made aware by a dedicated and credible reporter who spent extended time living with these vulnerable folks, I find myself disturbed and righteously indignant at the unfairness of it all.


But, to be honest and upon further consideration I must admit my righteous indignation is pretty hard to sustain, you know, having to suffer such distressing contemplation, which has led me to the rationalization that maybe not all of these folks are such innocent victims, that maybe their dilemmas are the result of irresponsibility on their part; maybe they dealt frivolously with their formal education, blew off consumer math, made bad choices in the selection of spouses.

So now, upon even further consideration I find I must relieve myself of my overly righteous suffering. I find myself able to comfortably return to the placid complacency which is my mien and so proceed with my normal daily routines untroubled by occurrences beyond my control.

Fundamentalist Fervor

I’ve been wondering lately what sort of life events, what kind of social influences one would have to experience to lead him or her to embrace the stringent discipline of fundamentalist religion. Apart from an innate proclivity toward a rigid, reactionary conservatism (can there be such an inclination?), what, I wonder, propels some people toward angry condemnation of any and all perspectives differing from their own?

In fairness, most everyone seeks answers to the big questions: the nature of existence, life’s inherent meaning, but only some of us (a small minority one hopes) determine their answers to be an infallible, absolute truth that leads them to rail against the slightest suggestion that there might be other good answers.

Some of these true believers have come to the conclusion that the life they had lived before finding the Truth was so despicable that a psychic renewal was required: a re-birth into a total acceptance of, commitment to, their recognized god. In order to maintain their new persona and recently acquired cosmic world view, an Opposition, an inherent Evil identified as constant reminder that one’s beliefs are constantly under siege, that life is a battle between the forces of God and Evil. Tension and conflict then become an everyday experience and concern.

There are, of course, degrees of fundamentalist fervor. Not everyone who embraces conservative religious beliefs are overtly hostile to those they might consider infidel or apostate. Still, the idea of immanent cosmic conflict isn’t buried too deeply below the surface.

These are disconcerting thoughts to my mind, but, I guess, in the end, it’s all about being certain where the truth lies: for these folks it’s not within the empirical but rather the cosmic realm. For some the rewards of a promised afterlife tempers the outrage and sustains their vision of the soon to be realized cosmic light.

Alternative Realities

I read about a lady, the other day, who, when asked about a controversial idea she was championing declared that she knew that it wasn’t true but that it was consistent with her beliefs so she embraces it. Just an example, I guess, that our deep philosophical divisiveness has morphed into alternate realities. The spin has turned into, at least in some cases, ‘alternative facts’. The information we receive has become not simply differing versions or interpretations of events but actual counter-facts, egregious distortions. The fact checkers, who I tend to trust, have, I suspect, been working overtime to decipher truth from fiction.  There are no excuses for those who deliberately misinform to suit their own agendas but I suspect many of us simply experience differently, which has me thinking about what exactly Truth is.

Even life versus death will have nuanced meaning for some I suppose (at least those of a spiritual bent), and like the half empty/ half full glass of water interpretation must be accounted for. As I sit here writing this, I can’t know the truth, when I finish, of where exactly I will be physically, the world turning as it is. I peer out the window at a beautiful blue sky and suspect there are those whose truth upon viewing same will be something other.

So, I guess it’s only fair to assume that what I know to be truly the case will not necessarily be truth for others. I guess we’ll all just have to learn to co-exist in our alternative realities.

The Cancel Culture

I’ve been thinking lately about some of the public individuals who have been fading from view, have virtually disappeared from the cultural narrative in recent months (or years). Some of these folks have found themselves in disfavor for a variety of reasons: perceived racial bias, sexual improprieties, sometimes simply political incorrectness or holding views found to be inappropriate by the more sensitive of our cultural judges.

I can think of a particularly clever and insightful comedian, a creative radio personality, a talented dramatic actor and several pols who suffer the sins of behaving badly in a moral or ethical sense. There appears to be a particularly virulent group of vigilantes sifting through the pasts of those deemed suspicious seeking condemning information. I suppose condemnation may be in order in some particularly egregious cases even though the perpetrator may have contributed to the public good most of his/her life.

It all makes me think back, wonder if there’s anything there, in my past, that might be brought up, maybe by a disgruntled neighbor or former friend, that I might find embarrassing were it to be revealed.

And, of course, there is.

Virtual Reality and Dementia

I’ve been reading that Virtual Reality technology is becoming pretty sophisticated these days: put on the headset and find yourself in an alternate world so all-encompassing it all becomes pretty believable. Well, as a recreation anyway.

Apparently the technology is being applied to nursing home residents suffering from dementia. The intent is to help them restore brain function, I guess. I’m wondering if or when VR will be taken a step further: headsets for hospice care. I can imagine, rather than heavy sedation a journey to a pain-free realm of serenity, beauty and peace might not be such a bad way to retire from life.

What would happen, I wonder, as physical life expires. Does one live on psychically in beautiful VR? Seems kind of religious. Could it be technological advances will redefine the notion of heaven?

How to Live Authentically

Some twentieth century thinkers spent considerable time trying to understand what, exactly, one can know about the world. They thought that the fundamental basis upon which our knowledge of the world rests is suspect, based, as it is, on imagined truths originating from cultural orientations that define reality in terms of conceptual dualisms. Human inclination was to seek a secure ground of being in God or, perhaps, science that could provide reliable answers in dark times of stress and desperation. Such grounding led to unverifiable premises that produced false assumptions about the nature of the world.

A number of these deep thinkers dismissed the reliance on the eternal and infinite as being outside the realm of finite human understanding. All that can be known for certain, they thought, are the facts that exist in this world. These guys thought a primordial ground of being as disclosed through conventional world views was not to be found. An honest search would instead reveal an abyss, a nothingness beneath the cultural veneer. To live an authentic life, they believed, one must man-up, face uncertainty, tempt fate and step away from the safety of familiarity.

Other philosophers of the time thought a subjective ground of being could be found. Realizing the freedom to do what one chose depended upon a spiritual component to lift such a person beyond causal necessity. This ground of being will be personal and dependent on a belief in an existence beyond factual knowledge.

I have to say I admire these great thinkers living as they did through difficult times, unstable finances and psychological angst, who spend so much time and energy pursing ideas that provide us all the opportunity to at least contemplate how we can live our lives authentically.