Planet Waves | The Photoelectric Effect | By Eric Francis


Why you need your
and not your

by Eric Francis

Posted Sept. 16
When I was little, my dad was going for a Ph.D. in television studies at New York University. So every night during dinner, the TV was on for the purpose of taping the six o'clock news. The taping apparatus consisted not of a VCR or even a Betamax, but rather a microphone stuck with masking tape onto the speaker of the television, feeding into a reel-to-reel tape recorder. We had to be quiet, like we were in church, so as not to mess up the recording. Day after day, I was part of a catered vigil over news of the war, with its body counts, napalm blasts, and guys saying, "From Phnom Penh..." or "from Saigon, this is so-and-so."

I think this is why I grew up paranoid. I also think it's why I became a Quaker. (Also called the Society of Friends, we are a small Christian religion, dating back to colonial times and long before, based on not going to war as a religious principle, and on seeking Spirit as the inner light.)

Television didn't change much after the Vietnam War. The news slowly shifted to the urban war, with its nightly reports of who got stabbed or maimed in your city that day. We pretend that TV's job is to give us information, but in reality, its job is spreading paranoia. Some people would say "propaganda," but in our world they are one and the same. There is no real data presented on television, and there are very few facts. It is very difficult to intellectually reason about what you've just been presented. There are mainly graphics and a voiceover that pass by so fast as you juggle multiple senses that most of the time you have no idea what you just experienced.

In the case of a jet airliner plunging into a skyscraper, you sort of know, but the deceptive part about that particular shot is how noisy it was up there. There was a video recording but not audio, so over and over again you now see this same little snip of video tape and lately, to fill in the sound, they give you the voice of a guy reading the names of Arabs.

The real thing, reality, needless to say, is always different than the news. With the news, you are watching life through a 25-inch window. You can't smell or feel what is happening, and the people are seen as images, not real faces. In real life, there is no editing, just a constant stream of experience. The news is an edited television program with a specific editorial mission. Life just happens.

About 36 hours into the World Trade Center/Pentagon terrorism scenario, I even gave up on National Public Radio when it started going from news updates to what sounded like arguments for going to war presented as news. On the first day of the crisis I purchased the newspapers as collector's items. They were pretty hawkish. I stopped buying the papers except for one USA Today, which was pointless. I have read exceedingly little of the Internet coverage, and tonight I saw some clear photos for the first time. Not to brag or anything, but I would say that I know as much as you do about what is happening.

It's not because I am so smart; it's because there is exceedingly little factual information coming from any of the media right now, and very few real questions are being asked. Early in the crisis, government agencies got hold of the sources of information, since they are running the show. They tell us exactly what they want to, and what they need to, in order to facilitate their own projects. They have some kind of an investigation going on, and TV is the main way they talk to their suspects, who are presumably in hiding and watching television. And it is their main way to advertise for what they are doing, which is raising billions of dollars for a war effort against an enemy to whom nobody can, as yet, assign a name or address. Naturally they are going to go out of their way to portray themselves in the best possible light. They need to; it's perfectly understandable.

One way to tell you're getting real information is that there will be gross conflicts, contradictions and questions raised, both in the media content, and your mind. If everything you see adds up, seems to add up, or looks like it's proceeding smoothly, with everyone in agreement and no stone left unturned, you can place your chips on Bullshit. Nothing is that simple. Society is facing big problems right now, most of which we don't know about.

I have been a reporter for a long time, and it works like this: the government doesn't tell the reporters everything it knows, and the reporters don't tell us everything they know. There is an old line: "People are like mushrooms. All you need to do is keep them in the dark and throw them a little bullshit." Part of the concealment of what really needs to be discussed or considered is the blasting of constantly repeated nonsense 24-hours a day, with "pundits" chiming in about what they think should happen. The pundits are not influencing the government officials, but they are playing with your head.

Another way you can tell when you are getting real information is by the fact that a reasoning process starts in your mind. If it does not, then you are accepting foregone conclusions and not thinking. Try to notice which is happening.

I just got an IM from a friend in Florida, which reminds me of another issue: the polls. "I don't know -- all the polls say everyone wants and is behind Bush in war, but everyone I know wants peace," she writes to me. Need I say more on this subject?

Part of the problem with television, and its cousin, film, is that they create the mind set that thrives on these kinds of disasters in the first place. TV and movies have made us into warmongers and terror junkies. We think we love it. Most of what Hollywood pumps out is disaster and violence. Remember, we are a culture that takes our kids to see films of people being eaten by great white sharks, getting caught in towering infernos and earthquakes and trapped on crippled airplanes, and being invaded by UFOs and attacked by terrorists, criminals and murderers who pull off all kinds of stuff and there is always something happening in the ER and the president is kidnapped and there are big wars and national crises and scads of people get killed.

Some would say that we create our reality through the thought forms of the media. They are powerful visioning processes, and we are beginning to learn how influential any visioning process is at designing what comes next. This is the basic principle working behind architecture, for example. If you are uncertain about what comes next, then start visioning it. And while you may not accept that particular view from a metaphysical standpoint, it is at least clear that by indulging in media, we respond, and these responses create our feelings, and our feelings influence not just what becomes real to us and what we recognize as real. So pumping fear and hatred into your mind with a psychic power tool is not going to help you feel sane or stable.

This is as good of a time as any to remind all of us that on television or in the movies, you rarely see people touch one another lovingly, but you see them kill one another a lot. Passion, erotic love, and more artful portrayals of life are all pretty much taboo. But blood and suffering are legitimate. The fruits of these seeds are violent disasters, on one level, and on another, the alienation we feel.

So it all adds up to a lot of pain. And, most people would say that they can't live without their TV being on, especially now, when they need to be connected in some way to what is happening. But I assure you there are better ways to be connected.

Most of what we need right now is to calm our minds, and be with people we love. Our children need our attention. Our cats, dogs and iguanas want our attention. We need to be in a safe space on three accounts, one being who we are with, the next being where we are, and the third being the inner space of our minds. We need context to assimilate what we are experiencing now.

The most important quality you can possess right now is your faith. Faith is the product of a calm mind. Television is a constant assault on your ability to maintain this. You need to hear what you are saying to yourself, and to be able to feel what you are feeling. I know it may not seem so good, but you still need to feel it so you can get a real sense of your own existence, which is really important right now. This sense of being will become especially important if you have to make real decisions. And you may.

Back in the early 20th century, Albert Einstein came up with something he called the photoelectric effect. Scientists were investigating why metal glows red- or white-hot when you put it in a fire. The idea as it evolved led to creating a piece of metal that receives an impulse from a light source and then transmits the impulse someplace else. Photographic film, which also receives the impression of a light source, can only be used once. But the piece of metal keeps forgetting what it just saw, and so makes it possible for moving images to be sent. Where they ultimately go is your mind. But your mind is neither film nor metal, but something softer and more precious than both. Your mind never forgets.++

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