Lent Reflection 6 – when i watch too much tv

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5

With a relatively recent lack of energy or enthusiasm for doing much, the TV has unfortunately been blaring again. The March Madness college basketball tournament also has something to do with this ; ) This means that I’m hearing a lot of ads again. They are all commercials for cars and trucks, to normalize getting or leasing a new vehicle every six months. They are ads for cell phone companies, insurance, and gambling apps, to get us locked-in and loyal for a long-term relationship. The rest are for food, which until very recently, I would often fall for if it wasn’t 7:45 and I already ate plenty.

This is simply where my head is today. The intention is not to bring the guilt or shame, although upon rereading this, it sounds like a bit like a lecture. Maybe you need to “hear it,” or maybe not. Forgive me if it’s a bit off the rails. None of these ideas are run by an editorial team. And feel free to close the window, of course.

Is the Pennsylvania Lottery mascot Gus not the most annoying creature invented? Why did they give him a shrill, nearly painful voice? Why do they make him a bit creepy with the ladies? His motto, and apparently that of the PA Lottery system, is “Keep on Scratchin.” Seriously? Scratching is one of our most compulsive and primal actions, and rarely a good thing. It usually indicates some type of unhealthy condition, medication side effect, or parasitic feeding with possible transfer of bacteria and viruses.

Consider typical patterns of behavior and addiction- compulsive, primal, unwell, feeding mostly off the compromised or unknowing. I suppose the motto makes complete sense of the Reverse Robin Hood reasoning that mostly feeds off the poor and gives to some of the rich, their middle class admins, and yeah, “older Pennsylvanians” to save face.

Then there are the fairly sudden onset “bookie apps.” Their numbers look to be proliferating and we can now conveniently lose without getting off the couch. The old adage should still apply.

“Look around the room. If you don’t see a sucker, then you ARE the sucker.”

Of course the ads are targeting a younger, tech savvy but life inexperienced audience. That’s…fine? But what’s deceptive and almost hilarious is the authoritative and matter-of-fact tone by which every one of these ads speak of not gambling for some fun and entertainment, but for profit.

“Make it rain!!” [cash]

“Now you’re winning with the King of Sportsbooks.”

Oh. I see.

I haven’t participated but very lightly in Big Gambling and not for around 20 years. Yet somehow, I know so many stories of friends, acquaintances, and clients of losing big.

I suppose we need to differentiate the above two scenarios from throwing $20 into the March Madness Tournament picks, wagering a few bucks with the kids over the Super Bowl, or hanging out at guys poker night, eating pizza, coming out up or down $20 or $50. You have to admit this is far different than doubling down to “parlay UConn with the over,” or despite the clear evidence, playing “lucky numbers” fifty or one hundred and fifty times per year.

Somewhere around thirty percent of the population simply does not gamble in lotteries, apps, and casinos. It’s altogether off their radar or they simply don’t enjoy it. This group should probably not claim the moral high ground. That would be like commending your pet hamster for not believing false doctrines.

Somewhere around forty percent of the population gambles occasionally, on average ten days per year. They may know that including every single winner great and small, they will lose close to $.40 for every dollar they spend. But they gamble for fun and can afford it to the extent they do. They mostly know when to fold ’em, walk away, or run.

The remaining ~30% who gamble the most (on average 24 days per year) are poor, largely minorities, and often addicts. They may be well aware of the math behind all of this, and do not give a rip. It goes on year in and year out, with little to nothing mentioned in these woke times. Those who were trapped in this and somehow by Gods grace pulled away from it can absolutely claim moral high ground.

I have read that rich people care and think about money far more than anyone. In my experience, that’s not the case. I don’t personally know any of the ultra rich. But the many well-off people and families who I do know are also some of the most humble and generous folks around, including one luxury car salesman. For some of them, it is literally their job to think about money. All of them have worked extremely hard and made sacrifices over many years, and I fault none of them for their position. Please hold the comments about “Rich Dicks,” as if they’re all the same. Are there not dicks of every race, creed, and socioeconomic status?

I’m not going to jump into privileged backgrounds that allowed for opportunities. Though I believe this is undeniably real for many of us, it’s not relevant to this discussion.

And that’s where this is going. Having great wealth or means without having accumulated the life- and various other skills that lead to wealth is unsustainable on many levels. In that case, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” is absolutely true. In the same way that The State taking advantage of the most susceptible is wrong and the opposite of Christ-like (or unnatural, if you prefer), hitting it big is the same, much less the great, irresistible allure of hitting it big that the more powerful often use for leverage.

“Big Gambling” is a lose-lose-…lose, very much unmeek proposition. It’s like cigarettes’ or asbestos or other ideas from decades ago that seemed like a good idea at the time, but have long been proven to not really be good for anyone.

So according to my argument, there may be some kind of narrow ground between “well off and generous” and “ultra rich and powerful.” In the grand scheme of all times and people, the far majority of those reading this will fall into one of these groups.

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished…Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

– Matthew 19

I don’t really know, but I doubt Jesus wants all of us to give everything away. I suppose he may be using hyperbole, or obvious and exaggerated overstatement, to intentionally shock those listening and drive home a point. Or who knows, maybe Gods people will pass through only after witnessing the miracle of a shrunk-to-scale camel or greatly expanded needle.

Have I become poor by trying to live gently, peacefully, and generously rather than boisterous, greedy, or contentious? What am I doing with my time and resources?

My resources are unfortunately quite limited at the moment. But over the years I have posed the question to some of the teen- and twentysomethings who I worked with, as well as my own kids. I often don’t know the answer, other than the fact that being a Professional Videogamer or Cellphone User/Consumer is probably not in their calling. Bickering online over subject matter that is best left to more intimate, in-person conversation over some tea, coffee, or a drink is probably not the best use of an adults time.

With this entry, I may be running the risk of exactly that!

According to the state lottery, 27 cents of every dollar spent on tickets goes into the state lottery fund. This is allegedly helping older Pennsylvanians. And some does. But the lottery contributes a significant amount to funding Medicaid, which only .035% of elderly Pennsylvanians have. The other 73 cents goes to “prizes and lottery administration costs.” 

During 2019, the PA Lottery reported sales of more than $4.2 billion. It paid out prizes of $2.7 billion, and it reported paying out more than $1 billion in benefits. That leaves somewhere around 500 million dollars for admin costs.

The study concludes that “increased levels of lottery play are linked with certain subgroups in the U.S. population — males, blacks, Native Americans, and those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

One thought on “Lent Reflection 6 – when i watch too much tv

  1. Well, I’ve read your post 3 times and just don’t know what to say or even think about it. No. I don’t disagree with some of the thoughts you laid out. Heck, I can’t disagree with anything you wrote. I believe I am struggling with why you wrote what you wrote. I’m sure you have alot of downtime to think. Let me just say that I think of you often and pray for you and your family. Blessings and peace. Janet

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