>Twenty-five years ago I had a friend who liked to say that television would turn out to be the downfall of our civilization. Richard was prone to hyperbole.
But about the same time, I was on temporary assignment in California,living in a rental apartment for 3 months with no television. It literally changed my life. (Not living in California…having no TV.)
For those three months, I found myself with more “spare time” than I ever had before. I got up at dawn, jogged around a neighborhood track (where I met new people), read more books and magazines (making me more interesting to talk to), browsed local shops (meeting still more new people) and walked the beach a lot, taking in and slowly appreciating the many faces of Nature. It was a short span of time in my life, relatively speaking, but the impact of life without television was both enlightening and permanent.
Television isn’t inherently good or bad. It just is. It’s like anything else…it’s how we use it…or how we’re used by it.
It’s obvious and easy to dismiss a lot of the meaningless and trashy shows that are available on any one of several hundred channels, but what about the more subtle effects of repeatedly seeing and hearing terrifying or tragic stories about things that take place beyond our immediate existence. Virginia Tech or Paris Hilton…do these events occur within your immediate world or impact the things you have to accomplish today? While I may not mind being informed about such things, and hopefully can in some way benefit from them or come to someone else’s aid, once informed, I don’t need to be subjected to the same story over and over when, in real time, it’s already over.
How does the repetition of history on an hourly basis support my living in the present? What does the investigation into the details of a mass murderer’s life do for me? And more importantly, what does it do for the children?
I spoke with a friend yesterday who has a 6 year old son. At day camp, it seems he put his hands around his throat and said something at about wanting to kill himself…and the next day jumped in front of a go-cart after expressing a similar thought. She loves her son and is rightfully concerned, yet doesn’t want to make too much out of it in case its just a “boy” thing and he’s trying to get attention by negative means. In thinking about the incidents, she was repeatedly perplexed by “where did he ever hear talk like that?” I don’t know that answer for sure, but he’s 6 and has a television in his bedroom. While she believes it calms him down, I believe otherwise.
There are educational programs and programs with merit in all genres. They key is how responsible are we in discerning what nourishes us and what depletes and diminishes us?
Some days I’m more serious than others. Today, looking back at what I’ve written, I seem serious. I could go watch TV to get my mind off of it all… but I think I’ll go read a good book instead.
Our 14 year old left for camp this week and packed 7 classics to read over the summer. I was elated.
I’d like to thank the employer who sent me to California for three months 25 years ago for her choices.