Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Encouragement to Read

"Television (and even film) doesn't depict [complex] realities very well, and is at its best with the superficial and trivial, which is why the late Neil Postman (in his Amusing Ourselves to Death) expressed a preference for The Three Stooges over The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour. Neither program was significant, but one had the pretense of significance, and it was this pretense that irked Postman. Only by televised news' own silly standards could someone spent ten to fifteen minutes on a matter of public interest and consider this to be 'in-depth' coverage. Nothing of public importance can be covered in ten minutes; few important matters can even be adequately introduced in ten minutes.

[Only] a culture that reads can consider what is significant because reading takes time, and that which is significant ordinarily takes time to apprehend. But a culture that is accustomed to commercial interruptions every six or seven minutes loses its ability to discuss significant matters because it has lost the patience necessary to consider them....

As a medium, reading cultivates patient, lengthy attention span, whereas television as a medium is impatient. One is, therefore, suited to what is significant; the other merely to what is insignificant. As our culture has become a television culture [read 'ipod, texting and blog culture' as well], a larger part of our waking life has been occupied by considering what is insignificant and unimportant (or worse, by inadequately considering what is significant through an insignificant medium)."

- T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can't Preach, pp. 53-55

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