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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Well, Autumn has definitely arrived in our part of the world and with it less access to outdoor activities.  I’ve wondered how it would be to have the children in the house more with no TV but, while it is more demanding of my time, I am seeing some things that I don’t think I would be seeing if they were watching TV.  These are the ones that have made the most impression on me:

  • Benjamin has always been a good reader, but now, he is reading all the time.  I know he would not be doing as much of that if he were occupied with TV and video games.
  • Julia and Ben both have been plinking around on the old piano we have.  We’ve had it a few years now but I’ve never seen them show much interest.  Now, I can hear them playing around with it much more.  I believe that as they are being challenged to occupy their time, they are trying new things.
  • Both of them are spending much more time drawing, coloring, doing “art projects.”
  • Julia has a new found interest in ‘putting on plays.’  Her most recent projects are “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “My Fair Lady.”
  • Ben has advanced from following the directions to build lego creations to creating his own space ships, planes, etc.

Every choice we make about how to spend our time eliminates some other option.  I don’t think TV is bad or evil, in and of itself, but I do believe that the time my children  (and I) spent in front of some screen in the past eliminated opportunities to develop other interests and skills.  I feel like we are achieving more balance now and it feels good.

I have to admit that I miss watching the Colts but maybe someone will invite us to their house for a Colts party because watching TV then would be part of a social activity and therefore allowed (hint, hint).

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The First Four Weeks

Four weeks ago today I called and cancelled the satellite hook up.  No more TV.  I remember that on the last day I felt like I needed to watch a lot of TV because I knew it wouldn’t be available thereafter.  Sort of like when you binge on food the day before starting a diet.  As I reflect back on the last month, however,  I can honestly say that it has been the best month I have had in years. I feel more connected to myself, my kids, my husband and to God.  I’m spending more time praying, writing, reading, walking, cooking, playing with my kids, talking to my husband and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.  As a family we are playing more together, walking the dogs, going to the library, reading and meeting folks in our neighborhood.  I really thought I would miss some of my favorite shows but I can’t say that I’ve missed TV other than occasionally in the mornings when I want to get a cup of coffee and watch the morning news.  I’m not getting that much more sleep but I do feel more rested.  The icing on the cake is that I’ve lost ten pounds because I am eating healthier and exercising more.

I have a quote from Carl Jung posted on the sidebar…”Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.  Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakens.”  The prophet Jeremiah says that you will find God only “when you look with all your heart.”  Putting TV aside has allowed more time and space to look inside myself, to be quiet, and to listen for that “still small voice”.  I know fasting from TV is not for everyone, but for myself and our family it has been a blessing.   I look forward to the next eleven months.

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Before we gave up television, one of my favorite things to do after getting the kids to bed was to get a big bowl of ice cream, plop down in the recliner, turn on the TV, and watch some mind numbing comedy that would make me laugh.  I think one reason some sitcoms are so popular is that they help us laugh – not at ourselves, of course – but at the ignorance, stupidity and clumsiness of others.  This process helped me escape into other peoples’ worlds so that I could avoid my own. 

Since the television has been  shut down, silence has been a welcomed friend – at least as much silence as one can get living right off a state highway that is used by many large trucks and farm equipment even late into the night.  The more silence I experience, the more relaxed I feel.  I feel more peace, more able to dream, to consider, to envision my life and where it might be going.  However, there’s another side to this silence as I plop down in the recliner with my big bowl of ice cream – still in front of the TV.  I don’t see other characters, other people’s lives.  I only see my reflection in the dark screen of the TV.  That’s an eerie feeling – watching the reflection of yourself sitting, eating, and not doing much of anything else.  When I take note of this, the silence that I so enjoyed becomes suddenly unwelcomed. I begin to have other thoughts and feelings.  I sense in myself concerns, inadequacies, failures, and questions all invading my mind at once.  I begin feeling uncomfortable. 

Often we talk about television as something we do to relax and just zone after a long day of work or dealing with the kids.  But what I have noticed about myself is that this is really a smoke screen.  I think maybe TV is something we do more to avoid other, uncomfortable things.  Maybe it’s not just avoiding physical activity, although that may be true.  I think it may be more about avoiding dealing with our own emotions, our own fears, our own inadequacies.  Without TV, I can’t avoid these things in myself anymore.  I guess I could if I stuffed down more and more ice cream.  If I do try to avoid them now, it comes out in other ways – like grumpiness, anger, or sadness.

A really funny book I have is called, Vicarious Living:  How to Live Your Life Without Ever Leaving Your Home.  It is a book of a series of comic images and advice on how to never leave your home, but still live your life through other people.  As I have looked over the book in the past I just kept laughing, but then after reading it while, you get the sense that you are reading about yourself.  You start saying to yourself, “Wait a minute.  I do that!”  Then it’s not funny anymore and you wonder where your own life is spinning off to.

Living life without television is providing me with an uncomfortable silence that at this point in my life I very much welcome.  It is, without a doubt, helping me face my own “dark side(s)” that Betsy wrote about in her post.  It provides opportunity to think more clearly about who I am in reality, as opposed to who the culture thinks I ought to be.  It helps me spend more time with God in prayer, in connection, and personal worship.  In doing this, it helps me see myself through the eyes of God, not the reflection or advice of my television.  I miss it though.  I miss comedy shows.  I miss staring at a flickering screen.  But then I think about how weird that is.  Miss a flickering screen?  I mean, how odd is that. 

In the end, I’m not really losing anything not watching TV.  But I am gaining back myself, my time, my energy, and my focus.  As uncomfortable as that can be sometimes, it’s worth it.

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Our Journey Begins

Posted by Betsy 8.8.07

For a long time now I have been aware of just how much time I spend zoned out in front of the TV. At the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and I’m tired, my ample hindquarters seem to gravitate toward the couch as if drawn by a powerful magnet. I don’t go there because I know there is some compelling show coming on that will enrich my life or increase my understanding of myself or the world but because I’m tired and it’s a habit. More often than not, I don’t find anything that is particularly interesting but I end up spending an hour or two or three distracting myself from my life. I did a little math and determined that if I watch two hours of TV daily for the next year I will spend the equivalent of 30 days watching television. Over the next ten years it equals over 300 days. That is a lot of time to spend being distracted from my life rather than living it.

In recent years I have come to recognize just how quickly time passes and just how short our lives really are. Benjamin enters the 3rd grade this year and Julia starts kindergarten and I know that the time between now and when they graduate and leave home will pass incredibly quickly. An elderly friend that has led a particularly rich life but has recently moved to a nursing facility was recently listening to me talk about how pressured life felt at the moment. She encouraged me that this time in my life (when I am in good health, financially stable, with a job I love and kids at home) could be the richest and most rewarding time in my life. There was, in her statement, the silent encouragement to savor these days: wise cousel from one who is approaching the end of her life. I came away from the conversation with a renewed resolution to stop spending precious hours of my life trying to escape my life.

So, with the agreement and support of my husband, (though not my children) we have decided to fast from TV for the next year. Fasting is a spiritual exercise intended to help us discover our dependencies and focus our attention on God. We do not believe that TV is, in and of itself, bad or evil. We do recognize, however that we have become dependent on TV programming to distract us from daily stresses. Our hope is that we will use the time that would have been otherwise spent watching TV to attend to our spiritual, physical and emotional health in order to deal with stresses in a more healthy way. Our hypothosis is that attending to ourselves in healthier ways will decrease our levels of stess and fatigue and allow us to feast on the richness that life has to offer. We’ll let you know how it goes.

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