It might sound strange to suggest, but I think I need more quality time – – with television.
Let me restate that…
I think I should be watching TV more, and in a better way.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, my father used every bargaining chip he could to curb my obsessive TV watching. He took it away from me at every opportunity — when I screwed up, talked back, or failed to make grades. He tried requiring me to spend one hour out of doors for every hour of television I watched. He even tried using a demerit system to correlate good behavior around the house with increased opportunities to watch my favorite shows. My father was constantly looking for ways to keep “the idiot box” from corroding my mind.
In some ways, I think he was successful. Despite my relentless addiction to television, I did spend a great deal of the time outdoors in order to earn my TV time. I was also more receptive to household chores, and to saying please and thank you in order to purchase TV time.
Like many baby boomers, television has been both a positive in my life, and a negative. For better or for worse, TV has been an undeniable presence and influence in my life, regardless of which direction that needle was pointing at any one time — positive or negative.
In my post-divorce life, I had fallen more inline with my father’s opinion of television in his post-divorce. That is, I began to see television a legitimate social cancer, slowly dumbing down the human species, one episode of anything at a time. Always a walking contradiction, at the time I came to the conclusion that television was cancer, I owned 4 of them.
One morning in 2005, while getting ready for work and hustling from room to room with all my TVs going at once so I wouldn’t miss a moment of SportsCenter, I saw the ridiculousness of it all. I immediately stopped what I was doing and placed all 4 televisions on the sidewalk in front of my house. They were gone within an hour.
In the 13 years since that morning, I have not owned a television, though I have lived in places or with people where TV was present. In those situations, I have watched them minimally, including my current situation where my mother has large TV in the living room we share.
I often click the TV on when I’m in the room, just to create some background noise, but I don’t pay too much attention to it. In instances of the occasional mass shooting or natural disaster, I might pay a little more attention, and watch for longer periods to ensure I’m ‘well informed’.
There’s no television program though, nor has there been for years, that I watch with any regularity, other than the Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy. Those, I watch alongside my mother each evening, as I keep her company and make small talk. I wouldn’t trade that TV watching experience for anything. I have no recent memory though, of watching any TV show or movie from beginning to end, without being otherwise interrupted or distracted by something seemingly more important at the time.
Let’s tell the truth: in this era, if you own a phone or laptop, you own a very small and portable TV. In that sense, for last 13 years, what has really changed is the size of my television, not the absence of one. And in the internet era, I have been able to manipulate and select my viewing choices, and have had more ownership with them.
However, the Internet has also provided something else; multiple rapidfire distractions in the form of smartphones and social media. Like many, most days the internet has me bouncing off the walls like a gibbon on crack. What little TV I do watch, on that 40-inch screen in my living room, is frequently interrupted by the 7-inch screen in my hand, or the 17-inch screen on my lap.
In the pre-Internet days, it would not be unusual for me to spend three hours watching a movie – – One Eyed Jacks, for example, staring Marlon Brando. For all the nonsense and ridiculousness of the downside of television, the upside of TV has always been that it could take me to another place and another time, during which I would sit still and forget all things. TV was the beautiful distraction that kept me from other less beautiful distractions.
Now though, with the different ways we can watch TV due to the internet, and with all the distractions and interruptions that smartphones, laptops, and social media offer, the idea of spending three hours watching Dances With Wolves, uninterrupted seems prohibitive, if not impossible. In hindsight, gazing at a three hour movie almost seems like meditation compared to the chaotic media life I live today…
I can’t remember the last time I sat down and watched a movie which took me to another place and another time for several hours, where I was not distracted by notifications from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while also watching short video clips via YouTube.
Yes, I think I should be watching my television more, and in ways that take me to a different place in time. I long to sit still and to be transported, without my attention span being chopped to smithereens by the temptations of technology. In the same way I now look at the George W. Bush White House as ‘the good old days’, I now look at the idiot box and its dumbing down of the America psyche, as a more simple and more wholesome time.
Excuse me now, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes is calling me. I’m going to watch it, and I’m leaving my smartphone behind… Jhciacb
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