Ah, stinky hippie, pot-smoking friends from high school. They made such an impression on me, although thankfully, the infrequent bathing was transitory. The one thing that stuck, and that still serves me so well, was their lack of belief in TV. “What?!” you say, “Isn’t TV a God-given American right?!” Well, yes, I suppose, but my experience is that the benefits of getting it out of your life far outweigh the pain of kicking the addiction.
My folks were the super smart sort, and insisted that their kids engage primarily in brain stimulating activities. So, while I did get to watch TV as a kid, it was only allowed to be on for 2 hours a day, and besides Saturday morning cartoons, it had to be educational. Heck, we didn’t have cable, just the big 5 channels, so unless I wanted to watch soaps and the news, PBS was pretty much my only choice.
As a tween I discovered lousy sitcoms: Blossom, that one with the Steve Urkel kid, Fresh Prince. And I sat happily stupefied and let it rot my adolescent brain. In my freshman year of high school, I met a full-on hippie kid, whose family, no kidding, did not own a TV. This blew my mind. What else did one do with their free time in the evenings? As I hung out with them, I experienced a whole new way of looking at the world, largely with an eye towards entertainment from multiple venues. Damn near anything held promise, with sufficient manipulation. Art projects, science experiments, outdoor exploration filled our time. And of course, that was the era of the mix tape, purveyor of all emotional genres, and a common method of communication between the sexes. If you realllly liked someone you could spend a solid month putting just the right songs in just the right order to let them know.
Since early high school, I eschewed TV completely, save a brief foray into depression and malaise in college where I insisted on arranging my schedule around the fine program “Sunset Beach” (er, Procrastination Beach was more like it). While I do have a TV now, I can’t watch anything on it but DVDs, we we watch 1 or 2 movies a month, mostly in the winter.
As for how this fits into molding your life into one that you want, I can’t think of a better way to avoid society’s desires for you than to refuse participation in one-way media. TV is designed to enthrall, placate, and numb you, while lighting up all the base emotions that combine to make you a good consumer. According to TV, you are fat, poor, ugly, and underachieving. It would be so very easy to change all that, if you would just….buy this product….eat this food….upgrade your whole life! And if you’re not being sold something, you’re being informed of why you should be scared. “The News” should really be called: the shit that rarely happens, but when it does, we will tell you about it for the next week. (Why do we live in mortal fear after 30 kids are killed in a school one day, but never blink about the fact that 200,000 US people die each year from diabetes?! Because it would make a lousy news story!)
Anything that exists to create artificial needs and wants in me is the antithesis of my mission. Anything that needs me to believe I am “less than” is an enemy. Anything that only works by me becoming a zombie is something I can’t stand in my life.
Where do you stand with TV?