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Bombarded by our culture’s constant media barrage, post-modern people must find a way to determine the truth for themselves. The Baha’i teachings say that:
…God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.
We should investigate truth for ourselves, not only because each person needs to determine their own truth, but because the media has an incredible influence over how we think and feel about ourselves personally and about those around us.
Without our own investigation and experience, the media, and people in general, can persuade us to see their views as reality. Most commonly, we receive innumerable messages from media that tell us how to view race, religion, class, and/or culture. These experiences of others and in the media are not ours – and therefore, we cannot just accept them as reality.
Sometimes, if we do accept others’ opinions as ours without a critical eye, negative or unrealistic views may form in us about others, rather than the more realistic and even positive views that we create based on own investigation and experience. With constant exposure to the media in all its forms regarding culture, race or religion, without our own investigation, we may very well develop a certain pattern of judgment that we might not even realize is happening.
Similarly, in terms of the media at least, its views of people are mainly “material”. The value of a person is based on, for example, how one looks, what house one lives in, what car one drives, if a person associates with the “right” crowd or even the “right” religion. The value of a person may be based on the color of their skin, if they are rich or poor, or by how they dress. In other words, modern media often tells us that the value of a human being comes from their material reality, not their inner, spiritual nature. Not that we should expect anything more from most media — but for those who believe in God and/or spirituality, the value of a person is much more than material. In determining the whole truth, this spiritual side is a crucial element missing from that viewpoint.
Tragically, the opinions of the media and/or others can stop us from investigating truth to begin with. For example, if fear of a particular race, religion or culture is being projected in the media, we might develop a conscious or unconscious fear — and this may stop us from talking to someone different than us, being involved with others from a different group or doing something we might not normally do. There are many beautiful and diverse races, cultures and religions to learn from, and to stop ourselves from investigating them because we see through others’ eyes and not our own can become a manifest loss. If you look carefully, every Holy Book of every great Faith tells us to judge for ourselves:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. The Bible, Mathew 7:77.
…blind imitation of the past will stunt the mind. But once every soul inquireth into truth, society will be freed from the darkness of continually repeating the past. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 248.
So next time you read or hear something in the media or, someone says something to you, remember to step back and use your own spirit to reflect and find the truth. Ask yourself questions like “what do I see in this other person based on my feelings of them?” “Are my feelings of them based on what I see or how they behave?” “And have I formed this opinion of them from the opinions of others or the media?” Seek, investigate, and explore — because you never know what you’re going to find.
Read the previous article: Truth — Through the Eyes of the Media