In a letter of advice written to James Harmon to be published in the book Take My Advice, a compilation of letters that Harmon received from creative writers, actors, designers, and artists, Murray Bookchin writes about how difficult it can be to fully think through something in today’s television filled world. Harmon’s book was published in 2007, and many of the letters he received were written many years before that, but the knowledge shared with him is just as useful today, and Bookchin’s advice is a perfect example. The author and political theologist who died in 2006 before his letter was published wrote, “I have also learned that it is important not only to adhere to ones ideals but to fully and consistently think out one’s ideas. In a time when television gives us one dimensional images of human experience and mere shadows of the vibrant reality around us, it is easy to leave one’s ideas incomplete and be satisfied with half-finished thoughts.” With the increase of technology around us and the intrusion of smart phones and devices into almost every part of our lives, Bookchin’s insight is more accurate today than it was when he wrote his letter.
When I first read this section I had only highlighted the part about television providing us with one-dimensional images of human experience. I had focused in on this part because I was working on reducing the amount of television I watched. I was not happy with spending lots of time inactive in front of the television, and I wanted to gain a more full experience of life. In addition, I have really come to dislike television because it limits our focus and perspective. Everything in a show is perfectly manicured and tailored to create a world that does not exist. The conversations people have and the ways in which people act in television shows does not reflect the true experience that most people have. The worst part about television is that it projects a false reality and way of living. I wanted to get away from watching television because I did not want advertising companies to project images of what I should want directly at me, and I did not want to pick up indirect ideas of what my life should be like based on the experiences of the characters in the shows.
When I came back to this quote to write about it, I was stuck by the idea of television, and really all technology, limiting the time we spend thinking deeply about any one thing. Bookchin’s advice to fully think through our ideas requires that we spend time on reflective processes. Writing, meditation, and reading are ways that we can spend time refocusing and dialing in on our values or ideals so that we truly commit them to our sense of self. Without this time we can become lost in a sea of noise generated from television, email, and social media notifications.