Quote for the Day

I am certainly no judge of television, since I have never watched it. All I know is that there is a sufficiently general agreement, among men whose judgment I respect, that commercial television is degraded, meretricious and absurd. Certainly it would seem that TV could become a kind of unnatural surrogate for contemplation: a completely inert subjection to vulgar images, a descent to a sub-natural passivity rather than an ascent to a supremely active passivity in understanding and love. It would seem that television should be used with extreme care and discrimination by anyone who might hope to take interior life seriously.

— Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ Darrell Grizzle

    Wow, I had no idea TV is meretricious. As soon as I look up the word, I may or may not be alarmed. :o)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      Ok, I admit it, I had to look it up as well.

  • zoecarnate

    I think Tommy Boy just needed to watch some TV.

    In any event, I’m *sure* his critique would’ve never applied to YouTube! ; )

  • http://www.dieperdinge.com Esmari

    The spiritual issue is probably not so much whether TV is good or bad, but what you fill your mind with.
    Most people complain that they do not have enough time to spend in contemplation and yet they spend hours watching TV every week.

  • http://tmason47.typepad.com Tim

    I hope the same does not apply to talk radio…

  • Peggy

    I belonged to a fundamentalist pentecostal church for 16 years which was anti-TV, anti-movie, and anti-Christian radio (and secular radio). This was before cellphones, and internet, etc. I don’t think the ban was necessarily conducive to greater spiritual living.
    The women may have not spent hours watching soaps and game shows (working outside the home was frowned upon), but they could be just as shallow and gossipy as any of their unchurched neighbors. They seemed to pride themselves on their garage shopping bargain skills. They would pray the house down so to speak, sing until hoarse, and be at every service and still be as ignorant and prejudiced as before church. The men weren’t much different. I’ve read some of Merton and I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of his views either. It’s one thing to remove an object of tempation from one’s life it’s another thing to counsel everyone else do as you did and expect the same results.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    I think you might be projecting a bit onto Merton, whose point is not to dogmatically insist that television is inherently sinful, but rather that it is simply not very good for us. Note that he does not insist that one should never watch it, only that one should exercise “extreme care and discrimination” when tuning in. To use a food-based analogy, Merton seems to be saying that TV is more like junk food (potato chips) than something wholesome (organic fruits and vegetables). Merton loved jazz and poetry and literature, so he was hardly hostile to secular culture — when he felt it had something worthwhile to offer. The bottom line question is simply this: is his critique of television valid? I think it is. If anything, I think what he says about TV is even more relevant today than when he wrote it a half century ago. And Merton is hardly the only critic of television who is motivated by concerns other than fundamentalist xenophobia — check out Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television for starters.


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