Saint Silouan offers another very practical point of advice that is most relevant for those of us struggling in contemporary society. As regards his entire teaching, this advice is directed not only toward monks, but in general to all believers who are striving to progress in prayer.
He warns against the danger of outside thoughts that come from excessive reading of newspapers and ‘shoddy’ books, as well as being ‘curious to know details of other people’s lives’. St. Silouan explains, “Many people like to read good books, and this is right, but it is best of all to pray; while he who reads newspapers or bad books [or perhaps in our day, we could add ‘he who spends too much time on the Internet’] condemns his soul to go hungry—hungry because the food of the soul and her true satisfaction lie in God.”
He writes elsewhere, most likely with the newspapers of early Communist Russia in mind, “Newspapers don’t write about people but about events, and then, not the truth. They confuse the mind and, whatever you do, you won’t get at the truth by reading them; whereas prayer cleanses the mind and gives it a better vision of all things.”
Writing nearly eighty years ago about the harm of being overly attached to the reading of newspapers and base books, one wonders what St. Silouan would say if he lived today. From a technological point of view, the world of today is vastly different from the one in which St. Silouan lived.
In today’s ‘Age of Information’—and certainly even more so in the world of tomorrow—the constant influx from the multiple forms of news media, together with the far-reaching effects of the enormous technological advances, such as radio, television, motion pictures, recorded music, videos, computers, CDs, DVDs, iPods, iPhones, iTunes, YouTube, and on and on—all of these have the potential of adversely affecting both our social and our spiritual lives, and they can hinder our pursuit of prayer.
These modern forms of ‘entertainment’ and the complex web of world-wide communications systems, including the ever-expanding use – or abuse – of the Internet, have contributed to a fundamental decline in the quality of spiritual life, as well as an overall ‘de-personalization’ of contemporary people and our society. Even well-intentioned believers are now infected with this insatiable desire for more and more frivolous information, futile knowledge and superficial ‘entertainment’.
With each passing year, many of us are spending more and more time ‘on–line’, and less and less time ‘off-line’. This especially has a negative influence on our younger generation.
For example, the phenomena of social net-working sites, especially Facebook, is greatly affecting the personal and social lives of our young people. Many are sacrificing ‘off-line’ activities in order to stay wired in cyberspace.
A lot of our time spent in cyberspace, as well as many of our activities connected to these new technological advances, often retains little value for the ultimate purpose of our lives here on earth. According to St. Silouan, it also can have a direct and detrimental impact on our spiritual growth.
Now it must be said that technology and all these new technological advances are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. They can be put to very good and productive use. However, they can also certainly be exploited and abused.
This is why we must be fully aware of the many dangers and pitfalls that await us as we progress, by God’s grace, in the spiritual life.
—TO BE CONTINUED—
Read the entire St. Silouan series by Dr. Harry Boosalis:
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.