Just a few notes and thoughts on changing the position of television in my life.
First, Megan and I spent some time talking about this last night, and one of the things we decided to do was to eat our meals at the kitchen table and not in front of the TV. We tried that tonight, and it was nice.
Second, I finished the experiment tonight. I actually sat down and watched the television for 30 minutes with it turned off. It was an interesting experience. At first, I focused on the TV itself. I noticed smudges and things stuck to the screen, that I hadn’t noticed before. Then, I started to realize that I was tired. My eyes began to blur. I had to concentrate to prevent that. Then, my mind began to wander. I noticed a set of dominoes on the shelf below the TV and wondered how long we had them. I thought of different ways the furniture in the room could be configured. I caught myself, and went back to the TV. I noticed the silence. I noticed the sounds of the house. Eventually the 30 minutes had passed.
Tonight I learned that my mind is actively focused and engaged while I’m watching TV because it doesn’t wander, my eyes stay focused, and I don’t feel tired. I also experienced wasting away 30 minutes and being acutely aware of every minute that I could have been doing something else.
Also, on a related note, what you see on TV is even more fake than you probably realize.
If you watch television, you should take a look at this post. It’s a repost of an article that first appeared in Adbusters Magazine on the effects of television on individuals and society. It proposes four experiments to attempt at home. I did this, and I recommend you do it to.
What is a technical event? We've all seen TV cameras in banks and jewelry stores. A stationary video camera simply recording what's in front of it is what I will call "pure TV." Anything other than pure TV is a technical event: the camera zooms up, that's a technical event; you are watching someone's profile talking and suddenly you are switched to another person responding, that's a technical event; a car is driving down the road and you also hear music playing, that's a technical event. Simply count the number of times there is a cut, zoom, superimposition, voice-over, appearance of words on the screen, fade in/out, etc.For this test, I watched the first 10 minutes of this episode of my namesake show. In that 10 minutes I counted 223 technical events, and then I realized I didn't count any audio effects!
Television inhibits your ability to think, but it does not lead to freedom of mind, relaxation or renewal. It leads to a more exhausted mind. You may have time out from prior obsessive thought patterns, but that's as far as television goes. The mind is never empty, the mind is filled. What's worse, it is filled with someone else's obsessive thoughts and images.
Watching the TV without the sound makes it more difficult to connect with the story and therefore easier to observe all the technical events occurring. Switching to a news program you realize that there are fewer technical events.
With fewer technical events the news show appears realistic relative to other shows in the TV environment. Further, it appears super-realistic relative to the commercial shows in this environment. As earlier, we witnessed the joining of technical events in a coherent narrative. Here, we witness the reduction of worldly events into a narrative.
I admit I haven’t yet stared at a blank TV for a half hour, but I imagine two things would occur to me. First, I would realize just exactly how long a half hour feels, and I would be bothered by the things I could be doing with that time. Second, I would see the TV for what it is, an object, instead of what it is not, a companion.
If one is alone in one's room and turns on the TV, one actually doesn't feel alone anymore. It's as if companionship is experienced, as if communication is two-way.
Maybe one day I’ll stop watching TV altogether (although I have no plans to cease watching the Dallas Cowboys, no matter how frustrating of an experience that may be). I don’t want to bind myself to a statement I won’t be able to live up to. At least for now, I feel encouraged to read more.