The Lie of Entertainment

The entertainment industry wants us to take a break, relax, and enjoy life instead of working so hard. “You deserve a break!” they say. I used to believe it, but I’ve found it to be a lie.

empty starbucks

Rest vs. Entertainment

Yes, rest is important for our bodies and souls. We cannot work constantly or our quality of work degenerates. Yet the best kind of break is true rest, not entertainment.

Sit quietly, take a nap, meditate, or pray. These forms of genuine rest leave us feeling refreshed and ready to face a new challenge.

Mindless entertainment leaves me feeling empty and often just as tired, if not more so, than before. I enjoy it in the moment, but it’s like eating candy – it’s a temporary enjoyment that leaves me feeling a bit sick – especially if I overdose.

Different Work Is a Break

The other option for taking a break is to do some other necessary or meaningful work of a different type. It is temporarily hard to engage in work when I’m tired, but if I get up and start sweeping after writing at the computer for an hour then I start to feel invigorated by the physical activity and regain my energy and capacity for mental thought.

A Vicious Cycle

If I’m tired from the physical effort of cooking, cleaning, and running after four kids the last thing I want to do is more work. I want to do something for me! At times like these my old self would self-indulge in a puzzle or game only to have my problems come crashing down on me again a few moments later. I would delay the horrible moment of realization by extending the self-indulgent time. Instead of taking a well-deserved break, I would slip into a vicious cycle of sloth and guilt.

A Virtuous Cycle

If instead I discipline myself to sit down and rest my body and put my mind to work, I can brainstorm solutions to a problem in family life and stand up again feeling energized and full of new hope. If I’m too tired to even think I can sit down and snuggle or read with the kids and get some rest as well as invest in their emotional well-being.

Afterwards I feel refreshed, productive, and ready to take on another challenge. A little initial effort creates a virtuous cycle of productivity and energy.

Rest energizes. Entertainment drains.

Even a small amount of rest helps, but entertainment is never enough. It leaves me wanting more until I finally break away and despise myself for wasting so much time.

Since I’ve realized the lie of entertainment I’m more rested, get a TON more done, and am much, much happier.

You Decide

Nobody can define for us what is rest and what is entertainment, and I’m not suggesting we abstain from all entertainment. A little candy is a good thing, and so is a little entertainment. The trick is to listen to our hearts and not social media or the incredibly sophisticated advertisements of the entertainment industry.

Do you agree? How do you use entertainment responsibly?

Update: See my own response here.

5 thoughts on “The Lie of Entertainment”

  1. “Amusement is a good and sacred thing; but it is not on a par with education; and, indeed, if it does not in any way further the growth of the higher nature, it cannot be called good at all.” — George MacDonald

    Granted, I’m very good at finding educational value almost anywhere (comes of so many years of writing homeschooling reports, I suppose), and there’s always the issue of choosing between one good and a better good. But the above quote is a good handle on the difference between entertainment I find invigorating and entertainment I find enervating.

    “Furthering the growth of the higher nature” goes along with my go-to definition of a good book, “One that inspires me to be a better person.” It also includes your virtuous cycle, what I call “productive rest.” Again, I’m liberal in my definition of productive; the real struggle for me is choosing wisely among good things.

    1. I love the quote. Honestly, if Chesterton, Tolkein, Lewis or MacDonald haven’t already said it, then it will probably never be said. 😀

      I know each generation is inclined to say, “Things are so much worse with the newest generation!” (less obedient, less hard working, etc.) But I feel that when TV and eventually digital communication came into play, there was really a true paradigm shift in society.

      Entertainment 100 years ago might have meant a family member playing an instrument and everyone signing along. It may have been a town spelling bee to break the monotony of winter. It might have been a sewing circle, a trip to the seaside, or spending an afternoon in the treehouse with books and cookies. My dad spent lots of his free time making miniature steam engines, a working cannon, and catching, skinning, and selling furs.

      Now, finding entertainment that meets MacDonald’s standards is work in itself! It is no longer the default. Filtering through the trash is so hard!

  2. My biggest struggle is with allowing my mind to go “off” in an unhealthy way with screen time, vs what you are suggesting- engaging another part of your brain while resting the tired bit. I need to think more about using screens as a tool rather than as a source of entertainment. Because they are an amazing tool, but a horrible form of entertainment.

    Like you, I find rotating from emotional to mental to physical tasks helps keep me fresh throughout the day.

    1. The mind going “off” at the computer is exactly what I’ve struggled so long against and am so thankful that I’ve kicked the habit. It was a long and hard journey, though. That’s why I’m so strong crying out “you are a lie, entertainment!” But of course you both have showed that it’s more subtle than that. The conversation continues.

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