I've long recommended turning off the television.
And, during recent years, I've recommended turning off radio in all its many political and harmonic forms.
It's not that I so dislike the media. It's that someone — someone — has to advocate for silence.
Why Speak For Silence?
All creative people need space in which to work:
- That space can be defined physically: the artist needs room to work.
- That space can be defined visually: the artist needs a blank canvas.
- That space can be defined aurally, too: the artist needs some peace and quiet to concentrate.
This is an old story. As in Genesis, an artist needs a void into which to create.
Question: What's wrong with the radio?
Answer: It won't shut up.
Radio is an endless stream of other people filling your ears.
Sometimes, it's the cloying BBC, editorially blinded by the underdog, where anyone who suffers is therefore morally superior, their own responsibility notwithstanding. Or all the hideosity of commercial talk radio, where bombast and vulgarity drive a mob non-mentality.
Over time, we equate call-in voices with experts, just because they are on the air.
But it isn't the content that's corrosive to creativity. The argument holds true for beautiful, soulful, important music, from Miles to Mozart to The Beatles.
This Is The Main Creative Problem.
We abdicate our role as creative thinkers.
Because there isn't time. Because here comes another voice with another statement — even if the statement is "ob-la-di ob-la-da" — made more important by the media than anything we might be thinking for ourselves.
It's been ugly.
The counter-cultural call for silence has positioned me as a zealot. (Guilty as accused.)
One reader accused me of hypocrisy, because we do have a screen that plays DVDs and some of these DVDs are unworthy, violent, sex-filled tripe. (I plea-bargain the charges down to premeditated complex inconsistency. I hope you aren't disgusted and frustrated when you see blatant inconsistency. If so, you sure must be disgusted and frustrated a lot.)
Others have suggested that I don't want outside stimuli, that I eschew the media. Not so. I have an ever changing, quite varied stream of external observations. I don't have a problem with input. My problem is when too much input impedes output.
That is, who are we if we consume media during every waking hour? All gobble and no egg makes Artie a dull rooster.
To be creative, we have to sometime — sometime — during each day, turn off everything and get to work on our own media.
In this new age of compromise, I have a new idea about media.
But First: Let me on!
Alert the hypocrisy police. I'm pursuing an opportunity to land myself on air. To be yet another voice filling your ears. (I'm trying to get Ann Fisher to let me talk with her and her wonderful listeners about living ever more creatively.)
So am I part of the problem? Perhaps. But, really, this is another case of complex inconsistency.
Consider This Modest Proposal.
Here's the cure. Use the on button slowly and the off button quickly.
- On slowly. Turn the radio on as a last resort. First, try to consider your own thoughts and feelings. Think about something. If there's truly nothing to think about, think about that. (Very Zen of you.) If you want a little distraction, fine: turn on the radio. But if this happens more than once a day, you aren't trying hard enough to develop your own thoughts.
- Off fast. As soon as the radio has given you something to think about, turn it off. Think about the new idea in your head. Reflect. Enjoy. Savor the new idea. Prevent the very next item on air to displace this new idea. As a fully formed adult, you must be the arbiter of what you will think about.
This way, radio can truly live up to its mission of broadcasting in the public interest. Rather than distracting us to death.
And you will soon hear your own voice and find out what you want to think about. Or are you afraid of what you might hear in the silence?
Turn on life.