well tonight around 8 pm I started to write a separate blog post on the day’s mindfulness training as well as the morning’s meditation and insights. I got a paragraph done - well, maybe two paragraphs and my son asked me which war game I think he should get with his amazon gift card. I told him my standard boiler plate of being unable to have my heart behind ANY violent video game he wants to buy so maybe he shouldn’t ask for my opinion if he doesn’t want to have a long discussion. Sam wasn’t happy about this. He wanted to just make light conversation. I told him I understand that he wanted to have light conversation and I understand he is disappointed about my response and I repeated that he might want to choose a different person to have this conversation if he is seeking a like-minded response.
It’s ok for me to not like violent video games. It’s ok for him to like violent video games. It’s ok for me to be unable to differentiate between various kinds and degrees of violence (I hear all this justification from parents and kids about the KIND of violence: “it’s soldiers fighting aliens so it doesn’t count;” or “it’s only a little bit of stabbing;” or “you can turn the blood off.” These comments make me laugh when I hear them.) It’s ok for both of us to understand that video games are not reality. It’s ok for me to think that balance needs to be achieved with being indoors with games and having equal (or greater) time outside in nature. We have a difference of opinion and we still love each other.
Sam is getting older now and I want him to use his best judgement for purchases and anything that comes to him or that he finds interesting. He is still maybe seeking approval and this is a very difficult thing for me to value the same way he does. I do value that he values it. I do see that he wants to be in this field one day and learning these games helps him to think about the kinds of games he wants to create. (And/or movies or stories that he wants to create.) I value the creativity and the artwork and the expertise that goes into making these games. I am honest when I say that I personally would not play the games myself because I don’t want to put myself in a virtual war where things jump out at me and I have to kill them. (I would only eat unfertilized eggs because that’s the level of violence and harm that I could willingly do. I could not kill a cow or cut off a chicken’s head so I don’t eat it because I don’t want to ask that of anyone else… Right now I’m thankfully not in any dire places of survival so I don’t need to make decisions on harming and killing animals to feed myself…)
I also know and appreciate that the body doesn’t differentiate between what stress is real and what is made up in one’s mind or even played out on a computer or video game. I would rather let real life come at me with its roller coaster rides than play a stressful game. But I’m 42 now. I’m not 14. I will willingly pay for entertainment that is going to uplift me, make me laugh or help me to feel good. I don’t willingly pay for horror movies anymore or dark movies that talk about the underbellies of life. I don’t watch television. I don’t see reality TV and I don’t watch talk shows. I don’t have cable and I don’t watch the news. When I use netflix, I watch only the things, like I said, that will uplift me, make me laugh or intrigue me in some way. I will watch things that I can learn from and I don’t just keep it to touchy/feely stuff. If that were the case, I’d never watch anything like Food Inc or X-Files or what-have-you. In all honesty, we have enough “dark” thoughts in our minds if we really stop all this other external nonsense and just listen.
But back to violent video games: I understand there might be an interesting story line. I understand that the person playing is on the side of the “heroes” and I understand that there is a cool and/or badass quality to playing a game where you destroy something and “win” the fight or the battle or reap the rewards, etc. I understand the psychology of role playing games. I understand the dexterity and the eye/hand coordination. (I understand carpal tunnel, too, and how awful it is to look at a lit screen for hours on end!) I can also have an understanding about the mindfulness of playing with death. Death is not seen or talked about in our culture so I get why horror movies and violent video games are played or rather COULD be played or watched in order to work out the mysteries of life and death.
I wonder, too, if some empathy could be given to the idea that glorifying violence and “us vs. them” mentalities might not be the best medicine to help us awaken to compassion whether it be in reality or in a virtual world. Playing hours and hours of video games might just actually keep us asleep to the realities of life… I wonder if spending hours in what might be considered a “virtual violent dream state” might actually have long term negative effects on a person’s brain, particularly if it is not balanced with diet, exercise and lots of time outside in reality, in nature and with REAL people, making real connections and having intimacy with nature and all its inhabitants.
What was I just reading that talked about violence? Oh, it was the Kabat-Zinn video that I just watched today for class. There was a question and answer session and someone brought up some idea about how he thinks meditation is something more altruistic than money and corporations. Kabat-Zinn suggested that he watch those thoughts that gear towards opinions particularly when they put an “us vs. them” mentality. One thing is good and one thing is not good. That kind of judgement, he said is what puts “us as right and better and others as wrong.” He then went to talk about the Stanford Prison Guard experiment that was conducted in 1971. The researchers “planned [a] two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life [which then] had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, [the] guards became sadistic and [the] prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.” – www.prisonexp.org/
Kabat-Zinn’s point was that the mind takes on what it spends time and energy focusing on. These students were just students but they took on the roles they were playing. He mentioned in the video that these students were not any different than the soldiers at Abu Ghraib. They were 18, 19, 20 year olds that were following orders. They were in their roles just like these students were 42 years ago in a mock experiment. He said that the world is multi-dimensional and complex. In this complex universe, we are a part of the same thing. Everything is all interconnected and he advised to pay attention to these opinions that come in to say one thing is better than another. He said that principles and ethics are very much a part of mindfulness and by sitting we develop an unwavering awareness to our own authority and live it out with authenticity. Sitting meditation helps us to develop what is our work in this world…
Kabat-Zinn ended the video with a beautiful poem that speaks to this intimacy that is developed within ourselves when we commit to sitting in mindful meditation and practice what he calls “awarenessing” (vs. thinking)
Love After Love - (I found the poem here)
by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
beautiful. This is my real wish: for us to feast on our lives. Live our bestest and fullest life.