Now, I recognize that this blog will likely not be read at the United Nations, or even the council of "Building Better Mousetraps: Inc." Nor am I in any way posing as a political commentator on current events. I am simply a psychotherapist who listens to people confused by, disturbed by, and scared by the political happenings in our world at the time of this writing—a time when our living rooms seem to be invaded by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
And so, when I sit down to write my blog, I reflect the themes and concerns of people who come to me for counsel. Most often, I find that the frequent disturbing feature of peoples' problems come about because of their unawareness—for example, their unawareness of just how drenched they are in the ever-flowing cascade of entertainment from the commercials we watch on TV, to the raucous political bombardment of our fragmented society, to the programmatic offerings of our megachurches, to the family squabbles that threaten to torpedo our fast-approaching holiday season.
But, as my editor will no doubt point out, I have slipped here on what might appear to be editorializing commentary on current events, and thereby I have drifted away from the theme of what I hope to discuss in this blog. But have I really drifted away? Or, am I perchance smack dab in the middle of our public world in which we cannot be sure if we are bewitched by entertainment or if we are enchanted by the source of the entertainment.
In other words, as I stressed to my editor, our world has become a platform for entertainment in which we emulate the actors and actresses who are paid to entertain us, or the preachers who perform for us, or the politicians who occupy the frontier of current events, oscillating between exposing and being exposed, which is as one of my acquaintances said, "the most entertaining show in town" of which there are many, many offerings.
This is today's "world of entertainment." How did this never-ending feature show come to be? Oh, so many sources, and so many means, and so many projectors operating 24/7.
But let's begin at the beginning. And that would be our very precious infants lying in their very comfortable cribs, on their backs staring up and fascinated by the moving mobiles above their heads. Why do we do that? As most child physicians and psychologists tell us, these mobiles enable young children in several ways: (1) They bring awareness of the world to the baby, (2) They strengthen eye muscle development, (3) They encourage eye, hand coordination, (4) They evoke curiosity, (5) They assist the infant in judging distance,
(6) They redirect the children's focus from only physical sensations of the body while encouraging a fascination with the outer world, (7) They may provide soothing melodies that calm the infant while also stimulating the auditory cortex that identifies and analyzes music in the cerebellum impacting pitch, melody, rhythm, and tonality in addition to cognitive skills.
In other words, mobiles provide an early life work-out that will impact blood pressure, anxiety, one's shifting mood, as well as memory, in addition to the processing of dreams that involve the entire brain. No wonder, then, that we sing to our infants while we rock them, and the movements lead the babies to stare at the parent with wonder and fascination.
Is this entertainment? Or is it a comforting behavior that provides a calming sensation. I maintain that it is both. And here, at this point in my writing, we come to the theme of this blog. I am not referring only to the enchantment of our infants but to each of us. Entertainment has enchanted the American mind and thereby disempowered our capacity to engage in rational discourse.
Think about that. Why has our society become so irrationally fragmented? Why has one television network poisoned the mind's natural tendency to think critically, to engage in a rational understanding of the difference between democracy and authoritarianism? Why have we as a society been so slow to recognize the precarious precipice upon which our planet's climate hangs? Why have we been unable to stop the gun violence which accounts for one or more mass shootings each week, to the point where we are afraid to send our children to school, afraid they will not be safe?
I could go on, but here is the unspoken truth: There is a perverse entertainment in the dark side of human nature and the shadow side of our society. Why do we slow down to look at wrecked cars on our highways? Why do we gravitate to the horror movies even when it is not Halloween? Why do we feel drawn to the horrifying scenes of natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes? Because they are entertaining and this entertainment has a quality of enchantment.
Entertainment is an archetypically driven experience that has been a part of human nature from the beginning. Consider this definition of entertainment from Wikipedia:
a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience
or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more
likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over
thousands of years specifically for the purpose of keeping an
However, not only is entertainment an innate activity of human nature, it has now been polished to enhance its appearance with all the enticements made possible by technology that shapes appearance and image.
Historically, behind the forces shaping images that entertain us were the masters of enchantment. Think back to the earliest records of our human history and you will uncover the clever manipulations of ancient chantors (sometimes spelled "chanters") and you will wind up in the dark realm of the shape shifters, sorcerers, witches, wizards, charmers, conjurers, magicians, etc.
If you think much about this, you will come to the point of recognizing that the enchanters manipulate the reality we experience, or manipulate the way we experience the reality, or manipulate the observer. In any case, this is one of the earliest experiences of entertainment.
Such enchantment may be used in religious rites to cure illnesses. It may be used to manipulate powers of the psyche and external world. Or, it may be used for commercial profit. And, of course, throughout many of these experiences and even as an end in itself, such enchantment may be used for entertainment.
It is no wonder, then, that people who come to my office may feel quite confused about what is real. It is no wonder that one of the disabling currents of thought in our society is the threat that anything spoken or believed may be misinformation. And the result of this disabling system of communicating is that it undermines civil discourse. How compelling are the "snake-handlers"! How entertaining the enchantments in our fragmented political world. And how deceitfully dangerous!
Still, it is good to recall that all "snake oil salesmen" cannot stay long; they pass on. Having charmed and entertained audiences with the promise of their one and only elixir for making life better, the enchanters have to move on, either because they are found out, or because their charm fades when losing its entertaining enchantment.
May it be so today.