“Nine tenths of the news, as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events. Some days ten tenths. The ritual morning trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of generalized pseudo-attention to a pseudo-reality.
This experience is taken seriously. It is one’s daily immersion in ‘reality.’ One’s orientation to the rest of the world. One’s way of reassuring himself that he has not fallen behind. That he is still there. That he still counts!”
– Thomas Merton
One of the most common nutritional myths is the importance of breakfast. We see this repeated again and again, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” In reality, every meal is the most important meal of the day.
Just as we can see the marketing scams inherent in this nutritional mythos, we can also see the scam of the ritual morning trance of individuals waking up and instantly turning on their cell phones or television to be “updated.” It’s become a morning ritual, feeding your brain the key important news of the day to prepare oneself to be an informed citizen, or as Merton puts it, to not “fall behind.”
Just as we feed our bodies with elemental nutrition, we also feed our mind with images, sights, sounds and ideas. We do this throughout the day, media images coalescing into implanted memories and desires we were not aware we needed. To start one’s day with this subliminal conditioning is the epitome of mental junk food.
Merton asks us to reflect on these questions:
What is your daily reality?
What is your definition of the pace of your life?
What is your orientation or compass for your life?
To depend upon the daily news to frame one’s perspective on life and direction is a fool’s game at best and a journey into darkness at worst. One of the best ways to plant the seeds of personal growth and self-transformation is to examine what you do to start your day.
Are you spending the morning gazing upon a computer screen in hopes of discovering your “reality” or are you building the foundation to create your reality? What is your “morning ritual trance?”
How we begin our day and end our day determines much about how we navigate the waters of our lives and the storms of the modern world. One of the most important habits to begin to develop is to start one’s day with some type of exercise and inspirational reading / journaling.
Rather than sitting in front of a computer screen scanning the news, one can spend this time invigorating the mind and body clearing away the dross and residue of the modern technological vampire egregore. This can be as simple as journaling daily goals related to training and physical fitness or reading materials which inspire one to rise above the daily limitations imposed by the conditionings of societal belief.
Everything we feed our minds and bodies creates pseudo-realities. These artificial landscapes can be created by ourselves and used as artistic inspirations for us to fuel our goals of self-transformation or they can be manufactured by advertising executives or media machines and lead us into pathways of self-destruction.
Ask yourself, what you are doing to create your daily reality? What materials are you using to create this architecture of mind, body and Soul?
For Merton these pseudo-realities are used to reassure us that we have not “fallen behind.” Each day we are giving rare opportunities to create the pace of our lives. Society has its own manufacture artificial mechanistic pace, therefore we must take strive to create our own pace and not define ourselves or our self-worth by the ersatz pace of modernity.
The times of waking and resting, what we do in the morning upon waking and what we do in the evening before bed are completely in our control, and these times can become transformed into a sacred ritual which can inspire us and de-condition us. Rather than waking up to a computer screen or falling asleep in front of a television, take these simple moments to create your own sacred ritual, your own “pseudo-reality” which nourishes, sustains and inspires.
These moments in the morning and the evening can become our compass, our orientation in a world which provides only one direction: linear, predictable, homogenized, or what the modern world terms “progress.” We can start to shift habitual conditioned patterns of belief by spending the mornings and evenings in sacred ritual and create a momentum which can ultimately serve as a compass which guides and feeds our goals for growth and transformation.
When we start to shift our morning and evening routines away from addictions to mindless technology we can also experience deeper more restful sleep and more energy during the day. With dedicated persistence this routines become natural and spontaneous, daily expressions of the systole and diastole of the Soul seeping into every aspect of our lives.
Break out of the daily trance of the modern world! Create sacred rituals and sacred landscapes which guide and inspire above and beyond the mediocre and the manufactured.
We never know how much time is left in our lives, never take this for granted.