In the past four articles of this series we have been slowly unpacking the Media Mindfulness strategy. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Now we come to the fourth and final question of the strategy: What difference can I make?
This may sound simple but it is perhaps the most difficult of the questions to answer. It’s also the most important. To use an old cliché, this is where the rubber meets the road. This question challenges us to put the values of our faith into practice.
Thanks, once again, to St. Mary’s press for permission to reproduce this graphic.
In the strategy, we have asked questions about the media text itself: What is going on? and What is really going on? With the third question of the strategy (What difference does it make?) we identified the positive and negative values in the media text. This question asks us what we are going to do with those values.
Entering into conversation with a media text, especially when you ask these questions of children, can be a very enriching experience. You delve into the specifics of the text: the characters, what they are doing (or aren’t doing!), the sounds, the images, the feelings, the messages, and the values – positive and negative. Talking about it with others can open your eyes to something you might not have noticed. On the other hand, something you notice might inspire another person. All this is well and good, but, in the long run, what does it really do for you?
What does this mean for me?
Just like in Lectio Divina, upon which the Media Mindfulness strategy is based, we are asked to make an active response to praying with a particular scripture passage, so with this question we allow the media text and our reflection upon it, to challenge us to live better lives of Christian discipleship. Question four says, “What response seems appropriate in light of my Christian beliefs?” Another way of putting it might be, “How do you plan on putting those values (the ones you identified in question three) into practice in your life, here and now?” What is God calling you to do, concretely and specifically, as a result of engaging this particular media text with your faith?
The temptation here is remain with the media text itself. It’s really easy to say, “Oh, well, this character should have done this instead of that” or “the decision that character made was probably not the best way to settle the conflict.” It’s much more difficult to actually commit to some action in your own life that embodies some of the values you saw in the media text.
Once I was leading a group through the strategy using a clip from the movie, “The Impossible.” We did questions one, two, and three just fine. But when we got to question four, one person kept saying things like, “Well, I think Lucas was great. He was very caring.” I kept asking him how he could be more caring and he would say, “Well, Lucas stuck with his mom through the whole thing.” He couldn’t make the leap from the media text and the character of Lucas in the film to something he could do to increase caring in his own life.
Getting specific, really specific
Here’s an example. I watched the movie Woman in Gold, which is the story behind the Gustav Klimt painting “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” Since I’m not much of an art appreciator and for me going to an art museum would be considered a form of torture, the film opened my eyes to the fact that every work of art must have a story. Not all are as dramatic as this one, but a story, nonetheless. When doing the strategy, I decided that my answer to question four was that I was going to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (I live in New York) and try to look at the art and appreciate the artist and what he or she was trying to convey.
Going to the Met might seem like quite a commitment to some but that is what I personally felt called to do after watching the film. But that’s only one of a million possible responses to Woman in Gold. Another could have been praying for people who have been oppressed or persecuted because of their ethnic background. Another could be to make something handmade as an expression of my own creativity and give it as a gift to someone else. Another could be to make a financial contribution to a museum or art organization. The list could go on and on. The answer would be specific to each person and what he or she feels that God is calling him or her to do as a result of engaging a particular media text.
By answering question four for ourselves and actually doing whatever it is, we put our faith into practice in a concrete way. The amazing thing about this is that it all started with a media story, a product of our secular culture.
Now that we have looked at all four questions of the Media Mindfulness Strategy, our next (and last) article in this series will be going through the strategy with a specific media text so we can practice putting the strategy to work. Stay tuned.