On media and vision...

Waves of information wash over our personal shores every day. Our world is a world of millions of simultaneous electric conversations flowing through wires, in and out of space, and typed into the glow of computers everywhere there is power. Everyone seems to have 200 channels and yet nothing is on and wading through it all is a kind of martyrdom for the faithful, the running of a profane gauntlet who's blows are as unavoidable as they are unexpected and uncontrolled.

Although the solitude of a monastery beckons in such times it is not and cannot be the world for all, not even most. Those days ended when message and electricity were harnessed at the beginning of the century past and only catastrophe would bring us back to a simpler time. And while we have choices to make and actually have more power in all of this then we think we still participate, in one way or another, in the inevitable media culture.

But we can participate with discernment, in fact we must. As with everything there are larger principles at play and when we understand them we can navigate through these times and how the story of them is presented to us with a kind of insight that leaves us able to survive it all with our soul intact and our realities undistorted.

For Orthodox Christians in a media culture the first of these principles is to understand that our Faith and its object, our Lord Jesus Christ, are more than just ideas or rituals to which we give homage but a matrix through which we screen all the information that comes to us through the course of our lives. The success of any media is rooted in redirecting the way its consumers "see" things, to change the lens through which information and reality itself is perceived. The commercial first wishes you to become aware of your breath and then, in the awareness of it, purchase their mouthwash. For Orthodox it is crucial to understand that our Faith is, among its other attributes, a way of "seeing" ourselves, the world, events, and everything that is with a kind of vision transformed by the Holy Spirit. We understand that as this transformation happens we see things with clarity, observing everything, including ourselves, both for what it truly is and what it could truly become.

Perhaps this is why so many of the saints and ascetics of the past seem to have a kind of holy indifference to the things that trouble us so, the times, the events, the images that push us this way and that. After much struggle they began to acquire a vision of the world as the Holy Spirit would see it and with it came a kind of wisdom and peace that allowed them to see the world and care for its ebbs and flows but not be swept up in it. When eternity is part of our perception of things everything changes.

And in these times this kind of vision may be the most valuable commodity of all. All of the darkness of our culture is presented to us in never ending living color, it's materialism, its wars, its values, its panic, its hungers, and its false hopes. And if our own vision, like St. Peter's on the swirling seas, is captured by it we too are caught in its storm and at peril. Our hope lies in one thing, that the illumination promised to us in our baptism and sealed in our chrismation is made real in us and that as we cultivate it we can stand in a room of televisions and still see the Light.

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