Dr. Ken Larsen
I have a friend who used to be a Franciscan nun. It has been interesting through the years to hear her tell about life in the convent. Her anecdotes are sometimes funny, sometimes not, but always colored with the wisdom that comes from reflecting on the experience of life.
One of the practices she described was “custody of the eyes”. This was part of the way of life in the convent. What it meant, essentially, is that each nun was responsible for where she focused her visual attention. This practice taught the important principle that we have choices over what we put into our brain through our vision.
When I first heard her describe “custody of the eyes” I was reminded of the old computer aphorism, “Garbage in, garbage out.” What we put into our brain/mind becomes the stuff of our thoughts, our memories, our dreams and reflections. I believe our mental health and happiness is connected to the quality of our thought processes, which are formed by what we take in through our eyes and other senses.
Why am I telling you this? For a while now I have avoided television news broadcasts, often because they bring images and information into my brain that are not helpful to me in maintaining my mental health and happiness. This does not mean that I adopt an ostrich approach. There are many thoughtful, responsible sources for staying informed that do not involve the sensationalism of television news shows.
I went to a movie with a friend recently and was afflicted with nearly a half hour of previews of coming films that were largely the stuff of nightmares.
What is a reasonable way to think about the role public entertainment plays in our life and culture?
I close with the following words from Newton Minow, the newly appointed Chairman of the FCC given to the National Association of Broadcasters in May 1961. A bit idealistic perhaps, but thoughtful, even noble in its meaning and intent.
Television and all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children, for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the program materials chosen, for decency and decorum in production, and for propriety in advertising. This responsibility cannot be discharged by any given group of programs, but can be discharged only through the highest standards of respect for the American home, applied to every moment of every program presented by television.