Volume 3, Number 3
DEVOTEE: Master, I suffer from a kind of numbness or media shock in the face of all communications. We are bombarded by so many communications that any single communication does not seem significant.
DA FREE JOHN: Yes, you suffer from an inability to concentrate. You say you are bombarded, but, for instance, as you sit here now, in this gathering, you suffer no such bombardment.
DEVOTEE: Oh, no-not now!
DA FREE JOHN: Well! Likewise you could control your contact with worldly, conventional media. You are not obliged to sit around and be bombarded all day. Turn off your TV set! Do not participate in worldly communications. We are not obliged by law to watch television or read newspapers or endless magazines all the time. Therefore, until the law requires it, we are free to simplify our lives. What if we somehow hear that a new Pope was elected four months ago? Well, then, it is a surprise! If we did not even notice the names of all the latest gimmicky soaps, deodorants, and shavers, we would not need to eliminate them from our thoughts or to overcome the effects of such nonsense.
The nervous system need not be forced to confront endless, confusing communications about the world. The traditional yogis realize that the nervous system is constantly stimulated and negatively affected by all kinds of communications when one lives an ordinary worldly life. Thus, the extreme solution of the yogi is to withdraw the nervous system from any contact with arbitrary communications. But, more practically for our more ordinary way of life, we must simply restrain the nervous systems association with the endless number of possible communications it may receive in any moment.
Why put yourself in a position of being constantly vulnerable to superficial communications? Just because most people in the downtown world allow themselves to be so subjected, you need not live in the same tunnel of confusing information. You need not be bombarded by endless voices, endless media, endless hype, and endless noises that shock the nervous system. Go somewhere else. Turn off the instruments. Disassociate yourself from these things. To put an end to them is a responsible act-and you are free to do it. Just as the yogi is free to withdraw from society in general, you, as a kind of yogi or spiritual practitioner, are free to concentrate and simplify your life and not be open to endless disruptive phenomena. If there is something you want to consider, then give it your attention, but do not live with superficial communications constantly in the background of your life.
You are free to concentrate. If you do not concentrate, you will be confused. The nervous system will be incapable of judgment and integrated activity. We are blitzed by media if we live the downtown life, but we need not live the downtown life. In fact, I urge you not to live the downtown life! The obligations and conditions of living you are given as devotees make it possible that you will not live the downtown life. This does not mean that you should never read a magazine or watch television, but when you occasionally do such things your participation should be intentional. Buy TV Guide, decide what you are going to watch, and turn the TV off the rest of the time. And do not watch the commercials!
You may occasionally make use of conventional media to educate yourself or simply to enjoy in the company of your intimates. Basically, though, you must occupy yourself with the Teaching. If you are fundamentally convinced of the Truth of this Teaching, then let it be the source of your information and enjoyment. Make the great traditions of religion and spirituality your entertainment. Then let the popular media of this hallucinated culture of hype in which we live be secondary communications with which you occasionally associate in a mood of real humor. Listen to the people who speak on television. When was the last time you heard on TV an intelligent person who represented the full human consideration of the nature of our existence? Since those you hear on television are not such intelligent people, then avoid their company.
The traditional saints, sages, and masters of the past always said that the most important thing that you can do is to spend your time in good company, primarily the company of the Spiritual Master and his devotees. This is the best thing you can do. Good company or right association is the fundamental principle of spiritual life. Bad company is therefore the fundamental condition of a deluded life. The associations of this body-mind determine its conditions. Therefore, you must discriminate. As long as you are free to abandon the bad company of popular media, then you must do so. It is the right, moral, and truly human thing to do. You must abandon bad company.
You must not use the gatherings of devotees to straighten yourself out after several days of being brought close to obliteration by television. Do not use the gatherings of the Community as a remedy to your distress. Do something about your distress. Make yourself into good company. Do not depend on the good company of others to heal you of your irresponsible and self-indulgent patterns of living. Choose your company, your associations, and the contact with phenomena that you will permit to affect your own nervous system, and transform all of your activities into forms of Love-Communion with the Living God.
Likewise, as it is written in The Song of the Heart of God , you should do whatever is appropriate for one who loves Me, while avoiding those activities that are not appropriate. It is true that you should not avoid activity in itself, but you must transform what you choose to do and you must intelligently choose your activity. Your diet, your physical, emotional, and social existence, your relationship to every kind of experience, all the entertainments of the world, the politics of the world-every aspect of your potential experience must be considered by you. You are responsible for the choices you make in the midst of life. If you choose this Way of Life, then you will also have real friends who make the same choice, and together you can create a different kind of daily life. You are not expected to live alone in an apartment somewhere with the TV off. You can be enjoying yourself in a happy life with others, cooperating and creating a different company in which to live. Choose such company not to be austere, but to avoid what is insane. You can be full by associating with what is sane, what is true. Good company is more humorous, you see, than isolation.