April 8, 2009

I stopped watching television over two years ago. I didn’t set out to stop, there was no intellectual imperative to raise my consciousness or make me somehow better than everyone else. I wasn’t worried about my brain turning to yogurt like in the Hulu ads. (By the way – Alec Baldwin being an alien explains a lot. I wonder if Kim Basinger knew it all along?)

Did Kim know?

Did Kim know?

It was much simpler than that – life took my TV away. (Another by the way – did you notice that right at the beginning of my no TV rant, I reference a TV ad? Paradoxical, huh?)

What would you do if everything you saw on TV was absolutely real to you? Was happening at that moment, live, in your home? The war footage on the news – would you duck and run for cover? The medical dilemma – would you cry for the patient? The comedy sketch – would you think it funny, or cringe?

That’s what happened to my wife, Anne. A rare neurological disease took away her ability to differentiate real from pretend. The disease was progressive, and so was my weaning from TV. At first, we just had to avoid violence. And then any drama. We eventually reached the food channel and QVC as the only available channels. We lost the food channel to reality competitions – the losers broke her heart. I thought QVC would go on forever. Who isn’t happy there? But then one day the host asked the buyer if the purchase was for her husband, and she said, “No. Henry passed away last year,” and Anne went into profound mourning. Henry might as well have been her father.

So the TV went off, and Enya CD’s in constant rotation became our background noise.

And here’s what I learned – my life is better without TV. Not that TV in any way harmed me, or diminished me intellectually or psychologically or emotionally. Note that I said my life, not yours. TV may fit your life very well, and you are welcome to it without any judgment from me.

TV doesn’t fit my life any more. Here’s why – for me TV is the road to becoming the Unabomber.

I live alone, now. I am naturally something of a loner. TV is a sedative to me, the pill that would let me sit inside and never interact with real people and real places and real events again. And sooner or later, I would start planting bombs. Maybe not literal ones, but explosions aren’t the only way to destroy things.

So, how do I know the Hulu ads? Because I do interact with people, and those people do watch TV, and I am not so presumptuous as to force my will on them. TV is only dangerous when I’m alone.

Those occasions where I do watch it only reinforces my decision not to. A rerun of Scrubs or Two and a Half Men I can enjoy. Even an episode of House, as long as I take him in small doses. But Rock the Love Bus? Parental Control? These and others of that genre are designed to humiliate people for entertainment. I don’t enjoy that.

Walter Cronkite 2009?

Walter Cronkite 2009?

One last thought – The Daily Show. I used to think it sad that many young people got their news from a comedian. Then my son sent me a link to the episode of the debate between Jon Stewart and whoever that CNN financial lunatic is, and now I’d rather watch Stewart than O’Reilly or Blitzer.

But I’d really rather watch no TV at all. All the news I need now I can get by looking out my window or picking up my phone.


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