Paying attention here and now

One bee, one flower. (photo: Lorne Daniel)

One bee, one flower.
(photo: Lorne Daniel)

We know that there are many ways at arriving at the same truth.

I was struck, recently, by an essay written by Canadian naturalist and artist Robert Bateman, in which he quoted the late media theorist Neil Postman. You wouldn’t think that the interests of the two would overlap but when it comes to our culture’s mass hysteria with pop media they saw eye to eye.

Bateman’s essay Paying Attention to Place captures many of my own sentiments, so I encourage you to read itself yourself here on The Robert Bateman Centre site

In the third paragraph, Bateman reflects on Postman’s observation that “electronic media is turning all public life, education, religion, politics and journalism into entertainment.” In my own life, I try to keep an arm’s length from the day-to-day amusements of pop culture. I don’t own a TV and am pleased when I walk through a grocery checkout and don’t recognize any of the celebrities on magazine covers, let alone know their latest indiscretions.

Even so, I get a significant dose of our culture’s ‘amusing itself to death’ (to paraphrase Postman) through online news and social media. When I see a political situation devolve into a flurry of Tweets or community issues contorted into online popularity contests, I despair for humanity. And don’t get me started on how our culture pumps us to consume our way out of all problems – consume our way out of boredom, out of self-doubt, out of environmental worry, out of whatever momentary bother has wafted across our flitting awareness. 

This may be the greatest challenge of our age – to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of media (including online media) that blends real life into one undifferentiated mass of entertainment. 

As a realist painter of wildlife, Robert Bateman has invested a lifetime in training his eye. He sees the detail in our world. We all would be well served to turn away from our screens more often, step outside, and take a fresh look at the simple truths of our real world. Start with the local – your place. Your yard, your street. 

Attend to it, like a bee on a flower. One bee, one flower. So much to see, so much to better understand.

Comments

  1. Buried under the avalanche of irrelevant “infotainment,” insights like those offered in Bateman’s essay are becoming rarer, as are the birds and the bees.

  2. First, Lorne – love the new website (sorry – it’s been awhile since I’ve hopped around on blogs, mostly due to the very topic you mention above: this saturation of social entertainment and feeling that I’m living less in the “now” than I once was).

    What a great post, though. Thank you for writing it. The one positive I see is that people like you and Bateman and Postman are TALKING about the issue. Others are, too. I read this fabulous article just last week by Anita Finlay (http://www.anitafinlay.com/Blog/2013/09/04/rising-above-kim-kardashian-and-the-infantilization-of-america/), that speaks of the same blurring of reality and Hollywood’s entertainment mentality that has seeped into daily life, into politics, into EVERYTHING. Indeed, scary times for humanity.

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