Living versus being entertained.

This post has nothing to do with "pets and vets", but it is something I’d like for more people to read.  Since it was in the print version of the Wall Street Journal, I can’t just "link" to it.  It really speaks to the incredulity I feel when I hear someone say, "There’s nothing to do in this town."  Just aside from my profession, I could be in some kind of activity or meeting every night of the year and all weekend as well.   This is a cutting from an article entitled "The Impoverishment of American Culture", by Dana Gioia.  It appeared in the WSJ on Thursday, July 19, 2007. 

"Marcus Aurelius believed that the course of wisdom consisted of learning to trade easy pleasures for more complex and challenging ones. I worry about a culture that trades off the challenging pleasures of art for the easy comforts of entertainment.  And that is exactly what is happening — not just in the media, but in our schools and civic life.

Entertainment promises us a predictable pleasure — humor, thrills, emotional titillation or even the odd delight of being vicariously terrified.  It exploits and manipulates who we are rather than challenging us with a vision of who we might become.  A child who spends a month mastering Halo or NBA Live on Xbox has not been awakened and transformed the way that child would be spending the time rehearsing a play or learning to draw.

If you don’t believe me, you should read the studies that are now coming out about American civic participation. Our  country is dividing into two distinct behavioral groups. One group spends most of its free time sitting at home as passive consumers of electronic entertainment. Even family communication is breaking down as members increasingly spend their time alone, staring at their individual screens.

The other group also uses and enjoys the new technology, but these individuals balance it with a broader range of activities.  They go out — to exercise, play sports, volunteer and do charity work at about three times the level of the first group.  By every measure they are vastly more active and socially engaged than the first group.

What is the defining difference between passive and active citizens?  Curiously, it isn’t income, geography or even education. It depends on whether they read for pleasure and paricipate in the arts.  These cultural activities seem to awaken a heightened sense of individual awareness and social responsibility."

Be, do, LIVE … don’t just watch.

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