The story goes something like this: While discussing his living will, the man tells his wife that he prefers not to exist in a vegetative state, dependent on a machine and taking fluids from a bottle. His wife moves from her chair, unplugs the television, and throws out all of his beer.
I’m not a beer person but otherwise the joke hits close to home. I hate the television the way an addict hates heroin but can’t stop inserting the needle. I watch it for hours on end, good programs and bad, silly and serious. I’ve watched “Seinfeld” episodes so many times I can lip sync the dialogue. I may not know for certain any more whether my giggles over Kramer’s antics are spontaneous or part of the ritual.
I’m very good at watching television. I can stand, sit, lie down, and even run on a treadmill or do sit-ups while keeping my eyes glued to the screen. I can eat a meal, time my microwave popcorn with the advertisement, visit the bathroom, and still not miss a minute of “Law and Order.” And I could beat Shane to the draw with my remote, pressing the mute button and re-holstering before he could get a shot off.
Television is my entertainment, my companion, my stuporific. It numbs my brain and allows escape from my worries. It saves me the inconvenience of finding a creative outlet. Next to my television are stacks of books I’ve meant to read, if only I could find the time. I intended to learn the guitar this past winter, and there it sits, waiting for my attention in another corner of the bedroom. If only there were more hours in the day.
I occasionally learn something from the history channel, or engage my adrenal gland in a good adventure, but by and large the experience is more similar to the empty calories of cotton candy; i.e., I have nothing to show for my time. If I were put in suspended animation for an hour instead of immersing myself in an episode of “ER,” I expect an analysis of my brain wave activity would be no different.
Obviously, looking for new and growth-inspiring experiences is not an essential element for me with my entertainment. “Why do I watch TV,” is probably a good question to start pondering. I know better, that’s the truly pathetic thing. With the exception of this moment of lucidity, courtesy of a self-imposed assignment to write about something that impacts on my progress toward “living healthy,” I am sure I would remain in total denial. I elevated this topic on my list of possibles when I realized I had allowed the television to keep me from completing an essay on a more interesting subject before I grow another year older. This domino in the line toward true healthy living must fall first, apparently.
Writing about my television habit, which I truly hate in my heart-of-hearts, is probably the most candid I’ll ever be with myself about this issue. Although I could quit cold turkey, I rather doubt that I will, at this point in time anyway, but it doesn’t take much reflection to realize I could make serious headway if I were more discriminating. Maybe cutting out the re-runs would be a good first step on the 12-step program. The reward would be several hours a week of found time to accomplish things that would be truly fulfilling. I could write a book. I could spend more time chastising my son for spending too much time on the computer...
OPEN CALL FOR ESSAYS
As part of an ongoing effort to print stories by East Bay residents, the Daily Planet invites readers to write about their experiences and perspectives on living healthy. Please e-mail your essays, no more than 800 words, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will publish the best essays in upcoming issues.