Distracting Ourselves to Death

Mar 20, 2016 by

by Joseph Pearce –

Apart from occasionally going to a sports bar to watch my favourite English soccer team, the only time I ever watch television is in hotel rooms or at the gym. Almost every time I do so I am reminded of the great blessing of not having one of these palantiri in my home. Occasionally, however, I see something that is actually worth watching. Such was the case recently when, at the gym, I saw neuropsychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a guest on the Dr. Oz Show, explaining the damage done to our brains from our addiction to social media. She detailed how a young man was tested before and after a 24-hour period in which he was denied access to all electronic gadgets. The improvement after this techno-fast was nothing less than startling. The young man showed major improvement in memory retention, mental alertness and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, the brain scans, before and after the day-long neuro-detoxification, demonstrated a significant improvement in healthy brain activity. Dr. Hafeez then proceeded to document the connection between increasing addiction to social media and the rise in attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

Such clinical confirmation of the psychological damage that techno-addiction does to our brains is most welcome. It is, however, merely stating the obvious. Techno-addiction lulls the mind into a comfort zone of banality, narcissistically self-centred and self-gratifying, disconnecting us from the reality that surrounds us. At the same time, even as it lulls us from reality, it agitates us into a state of restlessness, which is one of the defining traits of addiction. Thus we find ourselves in a state of soporific agitation, unable to awaken ourselves from virtual reality to veritable reality and yet unable to find any rest in our narcissistic escapism.

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

In order to understand the deadliness of this distraction from reality, we should look to one of the greatest psychologists of all time, a psychologist far more qualified to understand the mind than even the greatest neurologist or neuropsychologist. I refer to the great angelic doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. Once we understand what Aquinas says about our engagement with reality, we will understand the root cause of our disengagement from it.

In essence, St. Thomas shows us that humility is the beginning of wisdom because it is the necessary prerequisite for our eyes being opened to reality. One who has humility will have a sense of gratitude for his own existence and for the existence of all that he sees. This gratitude enables him to see with the eyes of wonder. The eyes that see with wonder will be moved to contemplation on the goodness, truth and beauty of the reality they see. Such contemplation leads to the greatest fruit of perception, which is what St. Thomas calls dilatatio, the dilation of the mind. It is this dilation, this opening of the mind to the depths of reality, which enables a person to live in communion with the fullness of goodness, truth and beauty.

Let us summarize: Humility leads to gratitude which sees with wonder, prompting the contemplation that leads to the dilation of the mind.

Source: Distracting Ourselves to Death – The Imaginative Conservative

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