Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Saying No.

Take up another challenge: Spend a 24-hour period with no entertainment whatsoever. That means: no TV, no recorded music, no movies, no video games, no internet surfing. Can you divide your life into the entertaining and non-entertaining? There would be more silence, for example. Think about it, then unplug. Enter another world within this world (and above it). Then, please converse about your discoveries with others--or even on this blog if you'd like. Selah.


Small Group Guy said...

When I first read your book it was on a 3 day prayer and fasting retreat out in the very rural mountains above Colorado Springs. It was a great 3 days. When God says "be still and know that I am God" he means it. Other that some recorded music we used for worship time we were without it all.

When you are silent your mind first goes off to the races trying to fill the time. After awhile it begins to slow down and you become accutely aware of your surroundings. The mountains, the animals, the smells. They all come together in a wonderful witness to Psalms 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." No wonder Satan has us all listening to our ipods while surfing the internet.

Ray said...

So, we should expect your next post in 24 hours then?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

I recently did this "fast" for several days during an intense time of seeking God.

I don't consider this blog "entertainment," though. I hope it is for instruction and reflection.

Small Group Guy: Which book? I have written ten. Was it "How to Get More out of Your Video Games?" Or maybe it was "Cellphonophony." Thank you for the comments.

Jeremy said...

I did this for a week while I was taking a course with Dr. Groothuis. I found it extremely worthwhile. In fact, my wife and I cut out almost all of our tv watching for a long time. When we moved back to Dallas, we began living with some family that had satalite. It's unbelievable how much of a trap tv can be. Anyway, I posted my thoughts on my fast on my blog. It's called "Smashing the Idols of Distraction" at www.redeemingthemind.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Over the past 48hrs I had been doing just what you suggested. It is at the same time very good but incredibly hard and dangerous. It has some similaries to taking a trip to the slums of India. You can be confronted with many very, very hard realities of life (mostly bad things about yourself) and at the same time appreciate much of what God has blessed you with. The trip, though costly, is well worth it.

Craig Fletcher said...

Another introspective challenge from Dr. Groothuis!

When I first heard your lectures on cutting out TV and media, they seemed extreme because it cuts against the grain of how most of us were raised in this media saturated society we live in.

However, the more I have reflected on this idea and put it into practice, (although admittedly not every day - but quite often), the more obvious the value of silence and reflection is. Deeper thoughts come to you when you aren't being bombarded by sound, light, motion, etc.

I have also been trying to make a habit of turning off the radio while driving - highly reccomended.

Josh S. said...

This Pascal quote seems fitting here:

"I have often said that the sole cause of a man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room…. The only good thing for men therefore is to be diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation which takes their mind off it, or by some novel and agreeable passion which keeps them busy, like gambling, hunting, some absorbing show, in short by what is called diversion.

That is why gaming and feminine society, war and high office are so popular. It is not that they really bring happiness, nor that anyone imagines that true bliss comes from possessing the money to be won at gaming or the hare that is hunted: no one would take it as a gift. What people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of office, but the agitation that takes our mind off it and diverts us. That is why we prefer the hunt to the capture.

That is why men are so fond of the hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible. That, in fact, is the main joy of being a king, because people are continually trying to divert him and procure him every kind of pleasure. A king is surrounded by people whose only thought is to divert him and stop him thinking about himself, because, king though he is, he becomes unhappy as soon as he thinks about himself."

vainjangler said...

So are you challenging us to bore ourselves for 24 hours? ;-)

Even if I abstain from the common forms of entertainment (and I often do), I generally find ways to entertain myself. For example, in recent times, I would do some math, make some music, or ride a bicycle/unicycle, which are all entertaining to me. Yet I would still be "unplugged", introspective, and disconnected from the shared entertainment experiences of society at large.

BTW, I've been lurking for a little while without commenting. I found your blog through Brad Boydston's blog.

Small Group Guy said...

"Truth Decay" was the book. I agree with the slums of India intensity, all to well. I just got back last month from 2 weeks in the slums of Chennai, that was intense.

gimmepascal said...

I've spent the past two weeks with a Korean missionary and his family (wife, two girls and a boy) in Uganda, and they do not own a TV, nor do they have internet access, and they rarely listen to recorded music. Instead, they spend their evenings conversing, discussing theology, comparing Korean culture to Ugandan culture, laughing, playing music on their piano, guitars, or flutes,etc. Each night they ask my wife and I many questions about the U.S., about our families, our faith, our views on politics. The wife told me that her children have learned to speak English fluently, learned a little bit of Swahili, and improved their Korean all within the one year that they have lived here, and the reason is that they are not wasting their time passively ingesting mindless entertainment. They have time to talk and interact as a family, and you can see that the children are benefiting greatly from this. The numerous questions they asked us revealed curious and sharp minds that we've rarely encountered among this same age group (5-11) in the U.S. In addition, my wife and I have grown closer to this family than would have been possible had there been mulitple entertainment outlets throughout the house.

I realize that I'm not directly refering to the challenge posed here. We've actually spent the past two weeks without any of the entertainment mentioned, which I believe has had a far greater benefit that one 24 hour period could have. Fortunately, we're in a country that has not yet become dominated by TV and video games, so it is not as difficult a task to refrain here as in the U.S. But I am certain that for those who begins to remove these distractions from their lives, they will be surprised at the inner resources and creative springs that have remained dormant and unused for years.

John Stockwell said...

An critical part of Buddhist practice is the cultivation of the mind through meditation.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Gimmepascal writes:

"But I am certain that for those who begins to remove these distractions from their lives, they will be surprised at the inner resources and creative springs that have remained dormant and unused for years."

This is profound. May we all heed these words and pray for Jedd and Michelle as they serve God and the Ugandans. I love you both and miss you so much!

Jeremy said...

Silence is mental fertilizer.

As ironic as it sounds, creativity takes discipline. Creating spaces for the mind to ruminate, to make connections, to really create, takes all the discipline one can muster in our entertainment-based, over-stimulated culture. In fact, it takes spiritual discipline. This is why Doug's challenge should be taken up. This fast provides an opportunity to cooperate with the Spirit of God in the pursuit of loving Him with all your mind.

For Kids said...

Great discussion.

I was recently told by a young pastor that his three year old spends three hours a day on the computer. I wanted to cry.

He told me this as a means to tell me I was too old to work with the young families in his church. I had suggested a whole-istic approach to children's ministry.

Children need to learn to enjoy silence. It is in silence they will learn to commune with Jesus.

Jesus warns us about being stumbling blocks to children or hindering their coming to Him. We do this by buying into the culture and keeping them overstimulated.

May we love our children enough to provide for their real needs not just their wants.

BJS said...

I agree completely and have very similiar stories to tell like Jeremy's and small group guy and Jedd's.

The problem is: this is really difficult to do here in the US culture I find myself in. One of the things I love about travel is that in the majority of non-US culture's I've spent time in, this attitude of "creative discipline" and weeding out all the distractions of modern media is much, much easier to do. Jedd, you confirm what I would have suspected about Ugandian culture as well.

Any pragmatic, down to earth suggestions for ways to implement a better lifestyle in regards to cutting out all the media junk that infilitrates our lives? Dr. G, as you know I've read all the Postman and Meyers and others on this topic. I agree wholeheartedly with it. I have experienced great joy and depth when I've lived it... yet it is hard to maintain... modern media just always seems to creep back in.

SO, any advice from anyone?
much love,
The Tornado

Oh yeah, and I assume that you don't consider reading "entertainment" in regards to your fast challenge. Although I have enjoyed "fasts" from all other kinds of entertainment, as well as no kidding silent retreats where I didn't talk for days on end (which was amazing by the way) -- I've never cut out reading (and I'm not sure if I could or if I'd want to). Any thoughts on this? Can reading become "entertainment" along those lines? (...by the way, I have my own answers to this question... I tend to think reading is set apart for some very good reasons, but I am curious what you all will think).

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Some read "mind candy." That is not what I had in mind. Reading usually focuses the soul; it is not entertaining, but edifying.

Adam Omelianchuk said...


The first thing I discovered is that it was very difficult not to have my iPod humming along, while I wrote long involved posts on my computer about whatever absurdity was gracing the news. While I was eating I found it particularly annoying that there was no background chatter from the inanities of sitcoms and cop shows on the TV. And driving in the truck without the radio on was the hardest to do as I found myself constantly turning it on (out of habit) and off (out of duty).

The second thing I discovered is that my thought life was much less muddled. Questions, intellectual or personal, were much clearer and easier to grasp in that they had time to surface rather than being drown out by a superfluous amount of “noise.”

Moreover, I found that I had much easier time thinking them through. I had plenty of time to search my library of books to help satisfy my intellect and sit in silence pondering the conundrums of my multi-faceted personality. Christianity became less religious and more spiritual. The present was remarkably still, not a blistering sequence of sound and furry. I read more in that 24 hour period than I did all week.

But perhaps the most surprising thing about the “silence” was the time I had for memory. Interestingly enough, I came across an old box of photos that were from the days I spent living in Colorado and Iowa—the only time in my life I consistently photographed. My own spiritual journey started that year (2000) when I was a part of a summer leadership training program in Colorado Springs. After that I moved to Woodland Park, CO and lived with a family who ran a sort of foster home/halfway house. From there I moved to Iowa and lived with my cousins, heard of my present church. On to Minneapolis I went and 6 years later I spent a few good hours looking back and reflecting on it all.

Flooded with nostalgia, I took to writing an actual letter—not a meaningless e-mail—and carefully crafted each sentence for the family I had lived with so long ago. I think it may be one of the best things I’ve ever written. It is no wonder that when you read letters and dairies of persons from times like the civil war era the writing is so much more thoughtful and articulate.

But most importantly, I was more aware of the presence of God not only the present silence, but in the mundane and magnificent moments of the past 7 years. It was almost uncanny. Moreover, I was comforted to know that, unlike the presuppositions of so much “spirituality” out there these days, where one must ascend to a higher state of understanding to come closer to divine and ordered realities, true Christianity celebrates the he descent of the loving and redeeming God to the sinner in need. Instead of climbing a mountain of mystical soul-purification, God constructs a “highway of holiness” that flattens the valleys of ignorance and the mountains of prejudice. Spiritual life is a journey on a road through the desert to a land of promised life, not a ladder of Gnostic transcendental inner realization that removes one from world. I am not alone in climbing an arduous mountain, but ever learning how to walk following the One who is with me until the very end of the age.

But at any rate, I challenge you to set aside 24 “unplugged” hours and see if you come to a fresher understand of what it might mean to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.