Thursday, March 31, 2011

We are what we watch

On the news this morning there was a story centered on girl-on-girl fighting.  The issue was that teenage girls are violently fighting each other in front of their peers, who record it and put it on the internet.  One of the girls highlighted in the story is a “reality TV star” on the show Teen Mom 2.  Obviously, there is already a lot wrong with this picture.  While I believe over 50% of the news is sensationalized, there is something seriously going on here that I barely know where to start.  It makes my heart hurt.  Unfortunately, I cannot control what other people do, nor can I control what is put on TV.  What I can control is what I say, what I do, what I watch, and ultimately how I think.  Buddha said, “We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts.  With our thoughts, we make our world.”  So with that, I must start with myself.
I have to work through what is the real reason this story upsets me.  Obviously the fighting itself is the opposite of good, but it’s also not uncommon.  Boys and men have been fighting publically for centuries.  Girl-on-girl fighting is nothing new in the 21st century, but the access to YouTube is relatively fresh.   What used to be a private act, perhaps shared solely in gossip circles, is now blasted on the internet for anyone to see.  One unknown girl’s humiliation was part of my morning.   That’s sad for the both of us.  But for me it’s not about the fight itself.  The fact that girls are fighting each other viciously is undoubtedly stupid, but is not as disturbing to me as the general public’s encouragement of this behavior.  When the clips posted on YouTube of girls fighting were shown, it was the crowd of people egging on the girls that horrified me.  There was no regard for the screams of agony, no one tried to help, and people actually laughed and cheered.  In one clip, a girl’s mother drove her to the fight and gave her encouragement from the side.  Terrible, disgusting.  It’s a modern day Gladiator.

As part of my work, I am part of a project with local Wilmington teens.  It was supposed to be a collaborative effort between my fellow Allies and the teens, as we develop a project on respect.  What it has turned into is an eye-opening conversation on the realities of fighting, bullying, peer-pressure, self-respect, and survival.   They talk about their own fights with no problem, no attachment, and no regret.  What I realize is that it’s the something inside of us that has called this entertainment—the part of us that derives pleasure from this, the part of us that is okay with seeing another’s pain—that deeply, deeply upsets me. 
Ashamed, I must admit that I’ve watched Teen Mom 2 and cringed at the fights and the total lack of responsibility.  I have also watched Jersey Shore and listened to domestic fights.  These were all choices of mine.  I could have easily changed the channel or better yet, turned off the television.  I cannot blame the TV executives or the show’s producers for being socially irresponsible.   People have asked for this stuff.  All I can do is reshape my mind and refuse to encourage this kind of behavior.  As Buddha had said, with my thoughts, I make my world.  I know that any desire from within me to watch these shows originates from negative feelings I carry: jealousy, doubt, fear, lack of self-worth or confidence.  If I eliminate these dirty, nasty feelings, I doubt I will be tempted to watch shows like Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, or any other similar trash.  In developing a steady yoga practice, I can feel my backpack of negative emotions slowly getting lighter, as I leave these feelings behind.
How can a slow exercise to ambient music work to changing human behavior?  I know it sounds absurd and maybe it is.  But I believe it can, slowly and unknowingly, so just hear me out.  In any yoga class, you often hear the word Namaste (nah-mah-stay) and maybe you’ve never known what that means.  At the end of class, we bring our hands to our hearts and we bow together and say, Namaste.  What a strange thing to do, right?  At first this made me uncomfortable because I felt like I was in church or unknowingly entered an eccentric cult.  In fact in the beginning I totally faked it and if I was at home, I would just turn off the DVD and walk away.  It was during these days that I still was competitive with my own body—getting angry if it wouldn’t do a pose or if I didn’t lose weight.  I didn’t understand the yoga practice.  So back to Namaste, what did it really mean?  I had always heard my teachers say, the light in me sees and honors the light in you.  Huh, what light?! Literally Namaste means I bow to you; “nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you.  Ultimately it’s recognition of another humans worth, as well as your own.   From one soul to another.  Now, as I learned more about the origins of yoga and read more about Buddhist philosophy, I have begun to truly feel the importance of Namaste.  When I say it I try to picture my competiveness evaporate, my hostilities vanish, and my jealousy die. 
So, I cannot force others to embrace non-violence towards each other.  But I am making a promise to myself today, that I will be non-violent to my body, my mind, and my soul and hope that that can be enough.

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