break Christmas

Treat Yourself! : The Slogan of College Students on Christmas Break

1:16:00 AMCatherine Beigel

Having been home from a hectic semester for a couple of weeks now, I still find a small voice (like the evil Kermit meme) telling me,  “You studied for months. Treat yourself!” With that in mind, I hope it makes sense when I say since arriving home from college and dropping my bags, I’ve spent many long hours binge watching Netflix. I never watch TV. Strange, I know, but I’ve never really liked it much. The stress of school always keeps me from enjoying it. Christmas break turns me into a little monster who needs to watch a years’ worth of TV in approximately 30 days. Plugging in my computer, and with a mug of tea in hand, I set up residence on my couch. 48 hours later, I realize I’ve watched an entire season without even noticing. The plot line is dull. The acting sub-par. The lines cheesy. However, I can’t stop watching.

Inadvertently, my eyes began to sting from staring at a computer screen too long, and I was forced to take a break. Between running some errands around town, and wrapping Christmas presents, I stopped to think for the first moment in days. And I asked myself, how effective had my choice of leisure been? Did Netflix aid me in my pursuit of rest? 

Not really. My brain feels like overcooked spaghetti. Instead of re-energizing myself, I was emotionally drained by characters that didn’t matter in the slightest.  

Netflix was just a medium of filling my head with an artificial noise. Left without the responsibilities of the semester, I had managed to escape the silence. Silence, is rather a terrifying thing. We hide from it quite well. Whether it’s Netflix, Spotify, or Social Media, there always seems to be something to fill it.  Silence I don’t believe so much is the absence of sound but the absence of fluff sensory data. We occupy ourselves with so much how do we ever expect to have time for what really matters.

Lovely rhetoric, but what exactly do I mean by things that matter and things that don’t? To answer that question we turn to delve into the world of values.   Because believe it or not, there are some things which possess greater value than Netflix binges. Although everything has value,  some have a higher value than others. Dietrich von Hildebrand identifies moral values as the highest, “goodness, purity, truthfulness, and humility. (3)” These values, can only inhere in the person. By engaging reality through conscious free attitudes, you and I can participate in goodness, purity, truthfulness and humility. It involves an active engagement in a world of values in general. For example, I become morally good when I respond appropriately to the reality around me. By choosing to tell the truth in a difficult situation, although it may be at some cost to myself, I show reverence to the reality of being. Truth has higher value than what is subjectively satisfying. By subjectively satisfying, I mean something which has value because I enjoy it. It’s value is not universal. Truth is universally valuable, placing it above Netflix binging, which only brings pleasure to myself. Contrasting with Netflix, the truth is important in itself.  

“Only the man who can see beyond his subjective horizon and who, free from pride and concupiscence, does not always ask, ‘what is satisfying for me?’ but who, leaving behind him all narrowness, abandons himself to that which is important in itself – the beautiful, the good – and subordinates himself to it, only he can become the bearer of moral values. (4)”

The vision to see and recognize what is true, what is good, what is beautiful, only comes by making oneself aware. When we’re filling our ears with artificial reality, we are unable to hear what is going on in reality. This is why cultivating a virtue of interior silence becomes so key. Dietrich contrasts this with the irreverent man who, “can never remain inwardly silent. He never gives situations, things, and persons a chance to unfold themselves in their proper character and value… he listens only to himself, and ignores the rest of being (5).”

It is not that Netflix, Spotify, and social media are negative values. They are neutral. Only when our participation in them causes us to neglect the world around us do they become negative. The silence of conversation with my family and friends is refreshing. Silence is not the absence of noise, but an interior attitude and consciousness towards being. Why be just a record Netflix watcher when you could be someone who is good, pure, truthful, and humble? Why continue to be a slave to a screen? Allow yourself the freedom to seek after those things which deserve your attention. Those things which,rather than dull your vision, give you the means to truly see; see a world of values which causes your soul to grow wings. 

(1) Image one
(2) Image two
(3) Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living, pg. 1
(4) Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living, pg. 4
(5) Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Art of Living, pg. 4-5

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