Cleaning Up After The Elephant…

A couple of my coworkers recently turned vegan after having watched the Netflix documentary “What the Health”, which documents the role that meat and dairy products play in our diet and subsequently our general health.

It would be easy and routine to see the word diet and instantly think about food, Well!… I am not talking about a diet that pertains to just food, I am talking about a diet that pertains to what we also consume visually and spiritually.

The words diet comes from the Greek word diaita which means “a way of life”, consumption comes from the verb consume which derives from its Latin  origins con “altogether” and sumere “take up” – I point out these references because we spend our whole lives being consumers of a multitude of different “diets” or to put it another way we spend our whole lives “altogether taking up a way of life”

As a 70’s baby, I grew up watching Dukes of Hazard. Not the 2005 reboot, no! I’m talking about the original Dukes of Hazzard, man I used to love Daisy Duke. “Just the good ol‘ boys, Never meanin’ no harm” the theme song, Boss Hogg, Roscoe. The way that Bo and Luke would slide across the hood, jump into their car through the window and race away. The General Lee! emblazoned with a huge Confederate flag on the rooftop, how naive I was? Or was I? I guess what you don’t know can’t hurt you…

Nowadays I try not to watch as much TV as I used to, I’m not judging those that do watch a lot of television, I just choose not to. Although, in saying that I was watching the recent public unrest in Charlottesville and I couldn’t help but get angry and agitated, a procession of racists and neo-nazis spewing hate and delivering a message of white nationalism under a banner of “Unite the Right” vehemently opposed by counter-protestors determined to put a halt to the proceedings. Now coming from where I’m from it’s damn near impossible for me to feel a way about white people, especially considering the fact that a lot of my friends are white. I’m not gonna lie though, having watched these events I felt a certain way about a white male that stood next to me on the train the Monday morning after that weekend’s unrest. I  normally wouldn’t, but this imagery left a sense of disdain for white males and led me to believe that this man standing next to me was essentially one of these far-right bigots that were plastered all over my TV screen this past weekend. He looked just like them, was dressed just like one of them for all I know he could have really been there. I tell you this story just as an example of something that I consumed and how it had a negative effect on me. This coming from a man who has experienced and seen quite a bit in his lifetime and considers himself far less likely to have his opinion swayed by external sources.

That’s the thing with a lot of current television and media coverage. There is a tremendous amount of negative content with a little bit of feel-good sprinkled in every now and again but for the most part, it’s negative content that is continually promoted and thrown in our faces.  Go to the local gas station, 7-eleven or bodega and pick up a newspaper, I can almost guarantee you it will be a negative headline. Shock and awe, mouth aghast, is this what editors of newspapers demand of their headline writers? I’m pretty sure that’s how the story goes. Journalistic sensationalism is a word I’ve heard on several occasions in regards to our current news smorgasbord. Then there’s television’s most recent phenomenon – Reality TV, where do I start? Especially that which is targeting a more youthful, urban market. If you peel back the layers to the majority of it you will find nothing, no substance, no art, no form of motivation, nothing that will enhance your life. Not that you won’t be entertained and not that every waking moment should be spent trying to enhance your life but try living on a steady diet of that and see how it slowly infiltrates who you are and then becomes “who you are”.  Don’t get me wrong as someone who watches the occasional reality show, It’s entertaining, I am entertained. But I find that it is somewhat of a guilty pleasure as I can often feel like it’s an hour of my life that I want back after having watched.

In fact, let’s talk about our current President – Donald J. Trump – a businessman who became a reality TV star who became the ULTIMATE reality TV star. I don’t want to get into politics, trust me. But, even his staunchest supporters would have to admit that his presidency is like a serial drama with a storyline that would seem far-fetched if conceived by Shonda Rhimes. Imagine what this is doing to the collective psyche of the American public. The Whitehouse drama that sees someone in his administration either fired or quitting every other day. The racial overtones that see a seemingly politically sanitized racist America emboldened and without mercy inflict their will on the minorities. This could be a whole piece about “45” in and of itself but I’ll cut this short for now and return to regular programming.

This digital world we live in is like a media free for all, a scrimmage controlled by those who get out their content the fastest and whose flock is the largest. Even more so now with the rise of the smartphone, everyone and their mother is a freelance videographer and media is shared at a rapid pace often times without being vetted or censored. Worldstarhiphop.com, many of you may not be familiar with this website but I’m sure at some point you seen at least one viral video with someone shouting “Worldstar” in the background, I can almost guarantee that video was not of the heartwarming variety.

There’s a continual inner dialogue that we as humans have with ourselves. Self-conscious to confident to arrogant. A pendulum that swings from invincible to vulnerable in the blink of an eye. We are a perpetual rollercoaster of emotions and feelings all generated by thoughts, thoughts which are often determined by what we consume. In fact, while doing some research on this piece I’ve come across the term “cognitive distortion”. Cognitive distortionsare simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. Now imagine how bad you’ll end up feeling about yourself if you consume a steady diet of nonsense or not even how bad you’ll feel about yourself but how your thoughts will be controlled by that content. Television, music, social media, aural and visual consumption is essentially what shapes our minds.

Environmentalists talk about “cleaning up after the elephant”: the endless task cleaning up industrial contamination, and how a far more effective strategy is to avoid fouling up the environment in the first place.

– B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. – “The Attention Revolution”

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“avoid fouling up the environment in the first place”

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I would love to be able to say that as a parent, specifically in my role as the father,  that I am without fault in the way that I raise my son. I’m not! I know it, his mother knows it, I’m pretty sure that at this point even my son(who’s currently 4 years old)  knows it. I’m fine with that. There is no parenting handbook, no manual or instructions or rulebook to abide by. This is nothing that prepares you for parenthood. My little guy is a unique individual, unique as in there will only ever be one Cameron Elijah Madiba Walters. We observe and we adjust, we make mistakes and we adjust. As long as I ensure that the primary focus on adjustment is within myself, my demeanor and how I, we as parents, handle his environment.  How we ensure that he is not negatively affected by the world that we display for him to consume. The goal is to clean up after my elephants so as to leave his environment and his domain uncontaminated. 

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