His conclusion about the media, hype and manipulation:
The press is just one part, one syringe in our complicated "present age," an age of the super-sized image. But it happens to be one arena where people at least get the ammunition to make up their own minds. That strikes me as a far less frustrating endeavor than constant cynicism and the vigilant, Sisyphean search for bias, slant and manipulation.Reading Dick's ruminations, I was reminded of a personal hero of mine, Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer who wrestled repeatedly with notions of what is real, what is true, and what is illusion. Merton's life was spent in the jungles of contemplation and prayer, in a creaky monastery in Kentucky, stalking that most elusive of prey, the authentic self. He once wrote:
Daniel Boorstin, an incredibly generous and kindly thinker, had this advice for me and for all of us who try, with muddled success, to occasionally demystify our world: "…I remain confident that what dominates American experience today is not reality. If I can only dispel some of the mists, the reader may then better discover his own real perplexity. He may better see the landscape to find whatever road he chooses."
Choosing carefully, I think, is what is most important.
As long as I assume that the world is something I discover by turning on the radio . . . I am deceived from the start.Merton clearly grasped something so many in our secularized age have forgotten: that what we can trust, and what is true, lies in what we believe. It goes beyond what we read or hear or watch. In Merton's Catholic sensibility (fed, as well, by his interest in Buddhism), our sense of the divine – or, if you will, The Divine -- calls us to a deeper understanding and recognition of the world around us:
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name written in us…It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.None of this, of course, has all that much to do with what is happening in the news today. But Dick, as he often does, got me to thinking.
Read the rest of his column, and prepare to be provoked.