by Adrienne Ryan, Funeral Co-ordinator, BEd, Brisbane, Australia
Recent events with the media’s treatment of the Universal Medicine (UniMed) group have made me aware of how inaccurate and sensationalised reporting can be. In the case of UniMed, this came at the expense of the true story – which is nothing short of inspiring. I have known Serge Benhayon and his family for over ten years. I read with amazement and disappointment the twisted presentations of them, their lives and work, accompanied by a dawning understanding of how I had just accepted reported information over the years without really feeling into the quality of what was being presented. Here were stories that I knew to be misleading, sensationalised, biased and wrong in so many ways, but if not for knowing the subject so well, I wondered how much I would have accepted as truth?
I came to understand that in my own relationship with the media I had stopped feeling what was presented and relied instead on the fact that because something was printed in a major newspaper this alone confirmed its accuracy. I’m not an ignorant person – it’s more that I didn’t want to know what was really going on locally or in the world. I found it hard to accept that the world was a mess and that people were inflicting such suffering on themselves and others. I felt powerless to change or fix it so I opted to avoid it, not by ignoring the media but by no longer acknowledging what I was feeling with what I read or watched. I looked to the press to be entertained instead of accurately informed.
There is a responsibility to be discerning of the quality of what is presented in the media, and for paying attention to the possibilities behind what is being said: is it to inform, incite, ridicule, persuade, belittle, judge, scare, sensationalise, entertain, distract, sway, tell, sell, teach, preach, dramatise or to present the whole picture, without bias or emotion? I understand that there is real media out there, but for now it is up to me to discern this for myself, instead of relying on an editor or a claim to truth to do it for me.
A little while after the media attention on Universal Medicine I was out walking and became aware of the thoughts running through my head. They were rubbish and I knew it, but I realised that sometimes I didn’t notice the quality of my thoughts until it was too late. I took on what they presented and didn’t question or feel into what was behind them. It felt like there was an ‘internal media’ running inside my head 24 hours a day.
The thoughts I had and the stories I ran, the features and the bylines were all there inside my head, going to press every moment. With some I just read the headline and moved on, others I got hooked into and took on the whole story. Most of those stories were rubbish, junk journalism, sloppy stories, outright lies and misperceptions about myself, others and the world that I (in my emptiness) can gobble up, without a second thought. It was a toxic diet. I didn’t eat junk food but I had allowed a constant diet of junk with my internal media. I had begun to discern media externally but here I was, editor-in-chief of my own internal press… and it was shabby. The ‘stories’ would come in from all over – why someone hadn’t called me; worry about money; uncertainty around my work; what I could’ve said in a conversation long gone; did my hair look alright… and on and on. It wasn’t the stories that were the problem though – it was me, in the editor’s chair, who let them go through to the keeper or not. I let lots go through without regard for their quality or influence over my perceptions of myself and the world. Sometimes I might stop for confirmation of facts, but mostly I allowed these stories to go to press.
Why? I am by world standards intelligent, yet if the definition of intelligence is the ability to make choices that look after myself, then consuming junk food or junk media without discernment of its compromising effects doesn’t seem so smart.
We have a global obesity problem for all to see, but what if there was a visual correlation for the diet of junk media that we indulge in? What if we are what we ‘consume’ in every sense? Is it possible that obesity, weight issues and heaviness of being are related not just to food, but to the quality of what we consume through all our senses combined – hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and feeling? What if there were weight loss centres that dealt with the diet of what we ‘consume’ for our reading, listening and viewing ‘pleasure’? We get obese from too much food and a sedentary lifestyle, but what happens when we consume too much junk media, junk music, junk literature? What would be healthy choices if what we read, watched and listened to could be measured for ‘empty calories’ that stir us up as they weigh us down?
There on my walk with the rubbish internal media flowing, I began to understand that cleaning up the press began with me: that my demand actually determined the quality of press that was supplied. As far as my internal media went, I got to feel how my demand sometimes came from believing that I was not good enough, got things wrong, wasn’t living life right and so I looked for stories that made me feel better (i.e. focus on people less fortunate than me), or stories that made me feel worse and confirmed me as not ok (i.e. focus on people who were better than me – in any and every way). I was consuming a lot of drama that wound me up or dragged me down and either way there was no rest. Another of my demands was to not know what was really going on (but still appearing to want to know), and the supply for this was snippets of facts wrapped up in fairy floss or cotton wool instead of the true picture.
As I began to pay attention to the quality of my inner-press and the effect it had on my physical and mental state of being, I started to axe certain stories that weren’t accurate or true and began to discern what the feeling was of a piece. Even if the words sounded right, if the feeling didn’t, I knew it wasn’t a keeper. I also began to notice how I was in myself, what I was looking for – what my demand was. Gradually, the quality of my internal media went from rubbish to beginning to have the qualities of respectful expression – truth, tenderness and care.
Cleaning up the press is an inside job: the more I develop truth, respect, tenderness and care within myself, the more I can recognise when it is present in what I read, listen to or watch – internally and externally. I then have a choice to accept what is presented or to understand that it is tainted, skewed or off centre for reasons I may not know, but can feel nonetheless.