INTRODUCING: TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY MEDIA
It is said that 21st century media is characterized by three defining attributes:
First, it speaks of wonders and mysteries.
Second, it is humble.
And third, if at all possible, it is given away for free.
The rather bold statement that 21st century media speaks of wonders and mysteries
cannot just be flaunted in front of the reader arrogantly. It seems to require some
attending explicatory remarks.
Wonders and mysteries are big words. Probably should not be tossed around casually or
used excessively. In this manner, they tend to lose their sense of prodigiousness, their
sense of awe.
What, then, do these alluring words mean? What kinds of wonders and mysteries,
one might ask. Do they perhaps allude to some recondite knowledge of phenomena that most
of us have not yet had the fine privilege of witnessing? Is there a suggestion that there
are things enigmatic, or nebulous at best, to the rank and file, things that might soon be
revealed? Can it be that the lavishness with which we greet this new millennium is more
than mere ostentation, that indeed a new era of some kind is about to begin?
To believe otherwise, in the opinion of this writer, would not only be a failure to
latch on to a tremendous opportunity, the chance to use a rare and unique occurrence as
a psychological device to spur the human consciousness to greater heights. It would also
indicate a failure to understand some very fundamental realities of life. Namely, that the
infinite, invisible spirit of the universe, along with its indomitable band of supernatural
entities and energies, including, but not limited to, angels and spirits of
all persuasions, is still quite actively involved in the day-to-day
enterprises of the human race. And that many of the world's spiritual traditions
speak of a coming time of enlightenment for us all. Some even claim that that
time is now beginning.
So what then, would this enlightenment entail? Are we not
already rather enlightened creatures? After all, the feats of modern technology
are more than ample evidence that the human brain has evolved into an unquestionably
remarkable thinking machine. It has been creating wonders and exploring mysteries
for years. It's accomplishments are legend. And our media has been covering
the subject thoroughly. So what could another level of enlightenment possibly
involve? Is there somehow a new realm of wonders and
mysteries to which the uninitiated may expect to be presently introduced?
There are those who say that this is precisely the case. That
the survival of the human race does not depend on its ability to respond to
challenging situations and threatening predicaments with its traditional arsenal
of resources, such as scientific erudition, political cunning, or military
strength and sophistication. But rather, that the discovery of our own [for
the most part hidden] personal resources holds the key to the future.
Just what these personal resources include is a story unto
itself, to be considered in another article. Suffice it to say that they pertain
to the realm of paranormal perceptions and psychic phenomena.
So now we begin to get the picture. We are being asked to
believe that we are in fact the possessors of a rather outlandish category
of talents and potentials, above and beyond what are considered by most people
to be normal human abilities. And that when we start developing these potentials
and using these talents, we will witness marvels and discover wonders and
explore mysteries beyond our wildest imagination.
If indeed we humans have potentials not being realized, if
we have the power to rise above our own weaknesses and limitations to a significantly
greater degree than we have been, then certainly those of us whose words and
ideas are propelled by the various elements of the modern mass media to audiences
around the globe have an obligation to say as much. For what, after all, does
the media exist, if not to help spread the good news that there are high adventures
that await us, that we need not condemn ourselves to lives filled merely with
mundane routines and superficial amusements. At a time when our collective
inner voice seems to be calling us to the quest more urgently than ever before,
what right have those of us who feel that we are qualified to speak somewhat
intelligently to the rest of the world to withhold any relevant information
that we may have access to?
And so, let us move forward, writers and thinkers and explorers
of new possibilities and realities. What a challenge! To speak fluently of
wonders and mysteries. To expound with lucidity the immensity of the human
potential. At a time when the human spirit hungers for something new and different
as it never has before, what a challenge!
And so we come to the second attribute of twenty-first century
media: It is humble.
This statement, though perhaps not quite so bold as the first
one, may seem to some a bit curious. After all, pride, not humility, is the
human way. And our media tends to reflect our pride.
But when we attempt to speak of wonders and mysteries we enter
new territory. Pride doesn't work here. It falters, then stumbles, then retreats.
It can't handle the illimitability of the unknown. Such a place, if not totally
antithetical to its very existence, presents sufficient threat to at least
render it silent.
In this new territory, this new realm of exploration, words
don't have the same finality that they have in our old familiar world. Attempts
to draw peremptory conclusions and utter apodictic assertions fail miserably.
Efforts at making the incomprehensible unambiguous are, perforce, an exercise
We are left, really, with one viable option if we seriously
wish to shoulder the responsibility of talking about some of the most unfathomable
items in the inventory of human experiences. We must be audacious enough to
make the attempt, yet respectful of the magnitude of the task. We must be
profoundly confident in our literary competency, yet poignantly aware of the
limitations of our words. We must be--well--we must be humble.
With this attitude, one can write with abandon. But without
the sense of self-importance that can ensnare the writer who attempts to enlighten
the general public with regard to the more mysterious aspects of the universe.
And without the erroneous conviction that they are giving the reader much
more than an introduction to this inexhaustible field of study.
For when we creatures of words, we humans, who insist on intellectualizing
everything, attempt to delve into mysteries born of the vastness of infinity
itself, our words end at the door. Beyond lies a region of unequivocal vagueness.
It is studied through experience. Not by reading or by thinking about it or
by postulating logical hypotheses. Woe to the writer who attempts to assume
any greater responsibility than leading the reader to that door.
In humility we can talk about wonders and mysteries without
pretending to explain them. We can urge the reader to go beyond our words,
into the very core of the mysteries themselves, without feeling responsible
for their ultimate success or failure. What a challenge! That we finite creatures
with our finite words and symbols might help lead other finite creatures to
infinity! At a time when the collective human spirit yearns for something
unexplainable, something unknown, something new and optimistic, what greater
challenge than to speak unassumingly of wonders and mysteries and to spread
the word that indeed that yearning is about to be fulfilled!
A quotation from The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda
seems somehow apropos to this discussion of humility: "To seek freedom
is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out
there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle,
which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains
intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle."
So let us mere candles be wary, lest, in our eagerness to
communicate, we assume a capacity to express the ineffable, and end up talking
in circles. Or worse yet, in leading the reader astray,
rather than contributing to their well being and enlightenment. The capacity
of the media to lead astray is equal to its capacity to enlighten. Thus the
obvious need for vigilance.
Whenever one is engaged in an act of power, such as expressing
ideas to a mass audience, the potential consequences of abusing that power
can be staggering--even fatal. Since words, images, and sounds are such powerful
vehicles of communication, a certain degree of circumspection must necessarily
accompany their use. When personal ambition or arrogance or greed or some
other selfish motivation overshadows prudence in this regard--look out! Spiritual
principles dictate that power be used conscientiously, that it be wielded
sensitively, with largesse, with kindness. Great karmic results follow its
misuse. The well being--indeed the survival--of those who use the power of
the mass media to communicate depends on our willingness to adhere to those
The third attribute of 21st century media, that it is freely
given away, needs a brief explanation. Obviously, many people involved with
the mass media have no choice but to be compensated monetarily for their work,
as it is their only source of livelihood. It is not to those individuals that
these words are addressed.
There are, however, countless people who are quite capable
of sharing their work, whether it be written, recorded, or filmed, with the
rest of the world, without receiving any reward, save for the joy of giving
something freely. For those of us who are in this position, the time has come
to give. No longer can wealthy writers, artists, musicians, publishers, broadcasters,
and the like demand that ridiculously excessive payments be made to them in
exchange for their services. This avaricious practice may have been understandable
in the dark ages, but it has no place in modern human society. Those who continue
to engage in such self-serving behavior will find that their audience has
Having defined 21st century media, we must now ask ourselves:
does the current state of the art measure up to these lofty standards? And
if we wish to be honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge the obvious answer:
we fail miserably.
Let us consider one important and undeniable fact: that the
media is one of the most powerful human forces on the face of the earth, quite
capable of exerting an enormous influence on the minds and activities of all
who are subjected to it. We say human forces for the simple reason
that any force or power of human origin pales in comparison to the really
consequential powers in this world. Next to them, of course, we are mere peons,
whether we be writer, prime minister, or commander-in-chief of an army of
a million men. It is precisely our failure to recognize and acknowledge this
disparity that leads to the aforementioned abysmal recreancy with regard to
our communicative responsibilities.
Perhaps no other earthly power plays such a monumental role
when it comes to not only influencing, but actually molding, the minds of
the human race, as does the mass media. So susceptible are we to the suggestions
implanted in our minds by the words, images, and sounds created by the various
elements of the media, that it is fair to say that the survival of humanity
depends on the courage with which the media is willing to shoulder its immense
leadership responsibilities, as well as the insightfulness
and imagination that are applied to the execution of those responsibilities.
It is rather obvious that wonders and mysteries are not major
themes of today's media. They are discussed in some periodicals, of relatively
small circulation, and in books that reach certain limited audiences. Occasionally
they may even find their way into some obscure television program. However,
the preponderance of material currently being fed by the media to the general
public deals almost exclusively with the mundane and the platitudinous. It
is loaded with banality. It fails to respond to the yearning inside all of
us for something new and different, something exhilarating, something to propel
us upward and onward to high adventures and unimaginable experiences.
More than ever before, humanity hungers for knowledge and
information that can help us open doors to exciting new worlds. But what do
we get instead? Inanities. Boringly repetitious vapidities. And constant reinforcement
of the absurd and sophistical belief that human beings can find little more
to do than immerse themselves in an unimaginative pursuit of worldly pleasures
and vain intellectual amusements.
Furthermore, we are encouraged to subscribe to philosophies
and to engage in behaviors and lifestyles that not only distract us from our
true purpose in life, but actually pose a grave threat to our well being,
indeed, our very existence. One obvious example of this egregious misuse of
the tremendous power of the media is it's mindless promotion of the primitive
and puerile belief that life must necessarily include a great deal of conflict
between human beings, and that grotesque acts of violence are a normal and
natural part of our world. Another case in point is the reckless and infantile
complicity on the part of today's media in the encouragement and abetment
of the execrable and potentially disastrous failure to hold in high regard
one of the most wonderful and powerful gifts ever bestowed on humankind: the
gift of human sexuality.
Yes, my friends, it is clear that we who fancy ourselves to
be the purveyors of information and entertainment to our fellow human beings
have a few changes to go through. Certainly we can do much better when it
comes to furnishing our fellows with the material they long for so desperately.
We have the power to inspire, to lead, to motivate. Now is the time to use
that power in creative new ways.
When it comes to humility, one can only conclude that, generally
speaking, today's media does not appear to know the meaning of the word. We
are given to rashness. Serious consideration of our power and an earnest heedfulness
to our responsibilities seem to be relatively rare. And an embarrassing and
inexcusable superciliousness runs rampant.
Perhaps the most apparent example of our arrogance is the
nefarious practice of attempting to brainwash our audience into buying things
they don't really need, and which may contribute nothing whatsoever to their
happiness and well being. Treating others as little more than objects to be
used to enhance one's own financial status reeks of self-importance and demonstrates
a monumental lack of respect for one's fellow human beings. This practice
must stop! At the time of this writing, a major industry is paying a staggering
economic price for its past insidious advertising, and indeed may be on the
verge of extinction. The handwriting is on the wall. Let this be fair warning
to all who are so thoughtless as to believe that they have the right to use
disgusting psychological ploys in an attempt to manipulate people's behavior
in this manner.
And what about sharing our work for free? It certainly is
not a common practice. Many of those who receive large profits and royalties
for their work are already among the wealthiest people on earth. Have they
not yet experienced the exhilaration that comes from creating a masterpiece
and making it available to the world, with no expectation of receiving anything
in return? Unquestioningly, our performance in this regard leaves much to
And so now, we issue a challenge. Let those of us involved
with the mass media recognize the enormity of our power. Let us assume our
responsibility to the world as adults, not as wayward children. Let us courageously
accept our duty as leaders. And let us lead constructively, with ingenuity
and vision, into the future, not back into the stone age.
In order to effectuate this colossal task, we must be willing
to reassess completely and totally our standards, our values, and our methods
of operation. Our motivations must be pure, free from personal ambition and
vainglory. Our literary and artistic works must be impeccable. We ourselves
must be paragons of accountability and unpretentiousness.
Those who are unwilling to accept this challenge with sincerity
and zeal will find that their days are numbered as practitioners in the mass
media. They will be replaced by authors, publishers, artists, and broadcasters
whose maturity and wisdom qualify them to be the true leaders of the twenty-first
century. To these we say: Speak and be heard. For the souls of humanity thirst
for your knowledge.
God bless you, our good friends. Let us move forward!