Not a simple topic. When I first started writing about entertainment I thought it was a simple topic: entertainment is bad, I have to avoid entertainment in all forms. That was true when I first started waking up in 2006 because I was using it as a means of self destruction, a way of killing time. I read, watched TV and browsed the Internet in my free time rather than using that time to make progress with love, to wake up. So it all had to go. Now that I'm finally through all my remedial work and in my own home, entertainment is an important part of the picture. It's become a tool for making progress rather than a barrier to it. That started in the last few months before I moved into my new home: I rediscovered my old love affair with classical music. In the summer of 2020, recently broken up with my long-term girlfriend and now utterly isolated, cut off from dance by the pandemic, I found comfort in listening to the classics, digging much deeper than I ever had before. It was a very clever move on Leela's part. Classical music was a form of entertainment she easily led me to without my thinking interfering, telling me entertainment is bad. Listening to the classics laid the groundwork for me to see entertainment as the enjoyment of art. Anything can be used as a tool for making progress. It's a matter of using the right thing at the right time for the right purpose, a principle brilliantly illustrated by Leela's use of drinking to make me stop drinking. That example also illustrates the key point, the secret: thinking can't be in charge. Thinking will never guide me right for making progress.
Junk food for the soul. The spiritual path is extraordinarily demanding. Love demands I give all I have to give. I have to examine how I spend my time, looking for ways to make all my activities count toward making progress, or at the very least not count against it. Doing anything mindfully makes it count. But some things can't be done mindfully. I can't harm myself mindfully; mindfulness wouldn't let that happen. The same goes for activities of no value, things I do just to kill time, to be entertained. Thoreau famously said As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. Any art I consume, live recorded or broadcast, that's just for the lulz, just for entertainment is worthless. I can't afford to waste my time slacking off if I want to make progress with love.
Entertainment and wisdom. There's an old saying: if I take one step toward god, god takes a hundred toward me. I always was suspicious of that idea. It sounded too easy. Then I discovered what my one step was: everything humanly possible. If I do everything I can currently possibly do, Leela will do the rest, the 99%. I can't make progress if I'm wasting time slacking off, taking it easy. So to start making progress with love one of my first steps was giving up all forms of entertainment. At the time that seemed monumental. I had long been addicted to reading for pleasure. After all my adventures in reading growing up I settled comfortably into literary fiction. Rushdie and Márquez were my top storytellers in the early years of this millennium. After I got married I developed a TV addiction, watching one, then two, then three or more hours of prime time drama most nights. I needed to give it all up for progress with love: TV, radio in the car, fiction, movies, live shows and concerts, browsing the web: any venue where I was just a consumer, not a student or creator. After I surrendered my life to Leela entertainment had a place in my life again. She had me start watching streaming movies and miniseries to keep the psychological intensity of making progress from overwhelming me by giving me a breather when I needed one. Now that I'm well established in my new home, living a life where every detail is aimed at making progress, streaming dramas have taken a bigger role, teaching me specific life lessons. Immersing myself in fictional drama helps me learn about stress: how much of what kind is helpful, when and why does the stress become toxic, and what's the best way to neutralize the toxicity. Leela's choices are fine tuned to my capacity. She has me edging anxiety. I usually have two movies or dramatic series going. One that's relatively easy for me to handle. One that's right at the edge of what I can bear. It sometimes takes me three or four sessions to make it through a one hour episode. Real world drama is what gets me, mostly police procedurals done artfully. The movie Melancholia, for all its madness and apocalypse, was easy going for me compared to real life drama.
Experience. My experience consists of everything I can sense directly via my eyes, ears, taste, smell or touch. Stories are not part of my direct experience. Thanks to mass media and the web, we have access to a vast number of stories. Stories are not part of my life; they're mental projections. Especially the news: all the stories about what's going on somewhere else. News stories are not part of my life. They are unreliable. All of them. For any news event, I can find thousands of stories. I will pick a story that fits my preconceptions. Other people will pick other stories. All of the stories are equally unreliable for my uses because I wasn't there. The senses are notoriously unreliable, but I have to rely on them to survive. If an event is in my life, I get the information I need via my senses directly, not filtered through anyone else. Not filtered through any agenda, political or editorial. The real thing, up close and personal.
Music. Music is a special case, because of what it is: sound waves. Sound waves can come from a musician directly or via technology. Once you introduce amplification, the sound waves are no longer direct. Recording and now broadcasting technology have made it possible for me to experience music at home that's better than live music. Music doesn't have reliability issues because it's not trying to accomplish anything. It's simply a work of art. A work of art has no agenda. An agenda means it's propaganda, not art. Luddites will blather on about the superiority of live music. There will always be luddites dragging their knuckles I mean heels. Nobody but other luddites cares what they think, thank heaven.