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Posted: December 27, 2012 7:21 p.m.

I’m part of the problem

Dear Editor: Reflecting on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, and what it might mean, it occurred to me that in some sort of karmic way, I'm part of the problem. Maybe the biggest part.

I read a lot - a big lot. I've never lived in a house with a television, so reading's always been a hugely enjoyable entertainment in my life. Mysteries and popular thrillers have always figured prominently in my selections - library books-on-tape for the car and jogging; a delicious read always waiting for me on my bedside table. Thousands of books surround me at home - collections of favorite authors. What's the underlying commonality? Death. Death as a plot element. Death as titillation. Death always.

Movies? The same way. I tend to filter RedBox to the R-rated choices; the other options seemed "insipid" for an adult. On the web, I self-importantly get my news from unfiltered sources - and with every event now under the unblinking eye of video recording, there's an infinite amount of material in every category imaginable. Graphic? Lordy, yes - but news? Important for me in my life? Unlikely.

What I've uncomfortably realized lately is that I am a "consumer of mayhem" - and not for any laudable reason, but simply for mayhem as entertainment. Yes, I understand that even millennia before Shakespeare, mayhem has always been gripping; always placed as central to drama. I'm not sure what that implies, but I'm beginning to fear that it's simply an "easy" way for the artist to create pathos; a lowest-common-denominator device to engage the audience's emotions.

Ironically, I'm just now listening to Agatha Christie's "The Moving Finger" in my car, and heard this in the text - "The human mind prefers to be spoon-fed with the thoughts of others, but deprived of such nourishment it will, reluctantly, begin to think for itself - and such thinking, remember, is original thinking and may have valuable results."

So, I'm gonna' try to change - abruptly. In 2013, I'll pursue only "non-mayhemic reading." I'm still trying to learn basic economics and equity trading; I began plenty of erudite books and audio lectures from The Learning Company this year. It's time to buckle down and actually to work, to learn; time to generate some value from time spent living in my head. I've put off Ayn Rand for decades; it's time to read to broaden, not just to divert myself.

Forrest McCanless
Oxford

 

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