The Law of (indecent) Exposure


When was the last time you sat down to read a book, listen to music, or watch a movie or TV show and thought to yourself, “I wonder if this will cultivate my moral imagination and resensitize me to good and evil?” Never? Yeah, me neither. Never, that is, until I heard those two pesky phrases from Michael Matheson Miller that have disturbed my literary, musical, cinematic, and televisual experiences ever since.


I’ve started to discover that what we consume in the media, whether we like it or not, has a penetrating effect on us. The Law of Exposure holds that what we expose ourselves to occupies our minds, shapes our thoughts, and ultimately expresses itself in our behavior. It suggest that we inevitably start to crave even those experiences that, at the beginning, repulse us. But what’s the big deal—it’s just entertainment, right? It’s not real life. Why should I care how entertainment affects me if it’s enjoyable, if it helps me escape from my stressful life, if it doesn’t really seem to turn me into a bad person?


Here’s a thought: the media we consume is just as important as the food we consume. We can either choose that which nourishes us, which makes us feel whole, and which helps us live more fully, or we can choose junk. How natural it is to watch what we eat and monitor our weight. But how often do we consider the “nutritional” value of the shows we watch every week? Or that blog we just can’t get enough of? Or those songs that fill our ears and minds as we go about our day? I’d venture to say that some of it may very well be poisonous.


Revolutionizing our habits of leisure is no simple task. Pursuing the true, the good, and the beautiful does take more effort. Believe me, I’m trying. But is it worth it? Is developing my character worth it? Is clearing my mind of unrest and reestablishing peace worth it? Is coming alive?


I challenge you to thoughtfully consider what you’re feeding your mind. You might want to consider changing your diet.

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This first appeared in The Catholic Anchor.


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