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Archive for the ‘Fasting from TV’ Category

It’s been six months since we cancelled our satellite TV subscription and here are a few things I’ve come to realize:

  • It’s a lot harder to be without TV programming when the days are short and the weather is bad.
  • Fasting from TV does not automatically mean that the time is filled with more enriching or productive activity .
  • Children who don’t watch TV require much more attention and energy to parent.
  • While waiting until later in life to have children has many advantages, boundless energy is not one of them.
  • It is both uncomfortable and rewarding to move out of our comfort zones.
  • It is possible to live a normal and fulfilled life without having access to 100+ channels of TV programming.
  • I don’t miss hearing every little detail about the day’s horrific tragedy.
  • I can still get plenty of news without watching TV. The only time I’ve really wanted to watch the TV news was when we had severe weather. We were able to pick up a local channel (though the reception was pretty bad).
  • It’s a lot cheaper to get movies from the library than from Blockbuster.
  • I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy reading for pleasure.

I have to say that our fast is not a complete fast. We do watch movies and videos from the library or Netflix and I’ve even watched a few cooking shows I got at the library. What is significantly different, however, is that the TV is not available to be used 24/7 as a distraction. Anything we watch is an intentional choice (both as to the programming and the time.) I’ve certainly done more reading, writing and listening to music in the last six months and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Fasting is, in part, about exposing our dependencies and clarifying what is important. God has taught me some important lessons in the last six months and for that I am truly grateful.

Thanks be to God!

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When we decided to fast from TV for a year I had an idea in mind about what that would be like: more reading, more time to do things together as a family, more time for prayer and meditation, and somehow I believed that I would have more peace. While most of those expectations have been met I have been surprised by how unsettling it has been in recent days. The first month was great. We were outside more, getting more exercise, doing more things together and I felt better than I had felt in a long while on a variety of levels. After school started things got more challenging as our schedule picked up with kids activities, church activities, etc., but still it felt good. The last six weeks, however have been quite unsettling. As I have been reading more about the serious problems facing our world due to climate change, political unrest, social inequity, etc., I have experienced more anxiety than have had at any time previous in my life. This experience of anxiety has given me a new empathy for those that live with panic and anxiety on a daily basis. I can understand more now about how it can be debilitating.

As I have worked to manage my anxiety through prayer, exercise, meditation, play, and writing, I have gained a new understanding about how our culture uses TV and other forms of electronic media and entertainment to self-medicate. Karl Marx said that “religion is the opium of the people” but it seems to me that in 21st century North America TV and/or electronic media is the opium of the people. One can spend an evening watching most network or cable programming and other than the few minutes of news programming which brings in a bit of reality, albeit mostly about things that happen to other folks, one can convince oneself that all is well. (sigh of relief) However, if we turn the TV, computer, radio, CD player, or iPod off or put away the book we are reading and sit in the silence it doesn’t take very long for most of us to feel uncomfortable and unsettled.

Why is it that we, who are among the most privileged humans on the planet, fret when faced with silence and feel the need to be distracted? What is it we feel that is so uncomfortable? I have come to understand that we need to be distracted because much of what we invest ourselves in does not satisfy us on the deepest levels. We are investing in things that will not, that cannot, last and somewhere deep inside we know it.

In these past few weeks I have had to come face to face with some things that scare me, that unsettle me, that feel out of my control and it has not been comfortable. I have been challenged to look beyond myself and move out of my comfort zone and what I have encountered challenges me on many levels. But in the process I have also encountered the “peace that passes all understanding” as I have prayed and invited the Holy Spirit to transform my anxiety into an energy that can be a force for good in the world. I feel as though for the first time in a long time I’m really paying attention in a more sustained sort of way to what God has to teach me and what I need to learn about living as a faithful disciple of Jesus.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55: 1-2

Thanks be to God.

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As I write this we are gathered preparing to watch a movie. The kids are alternating between playing and bickering. Not watching TV means that they have more time on their hands to try to fill. Consequently, they seem to bicker more which is maddening to me. I have no idea how my parents stood having six kids in the house at one time. I’ve asked everyone to come upstairs where our computer is so that we can have a discussion about our fast and I can attempt to transcribe it as we talk.

Betsy: “Ok…what do we want to say about our three months without TV?”

David: “It’s only been three months? Time really crawls when you are not watching TV.”

Julia: “Don’t watch it until two thousand hundred thirty seventy five years.”

Mom: “Why?”

Julia: “So we can get more healthier.”

Mom: “How does not watching TV make us healthier.”

Julia: “Too much TV makes you get jello in your brain.”

Ben: “Not watching TV is fun because you can play with other stuff like your legos or you can read books. We can talk with our family at dinner.”

Mom: “What books have you been reading?”

Ben: “Guardians of the Ga’hoole, Harry Potter, Hank the Cowdog, The Island,”

Mom: “What is hardest about not watching TV?”

Ben: “Nothing, I already told you, it’s fun.”

Mom: “You don’t miss any TV shows?”

Ben: “I don’t miss any.”

Mom: “What would you say to other families that might think about fasting from TV?”

Ben: “No one in my school is going to do that. I’d tell them it can hurt your brain. ”

Mom: “Do you tell people you don’t watch TV?”

Ben: “No. They would think I’m stupid cause everyone watches TV.”

Three months. Now that we’ve moved the clocks back an hour it gets dark so much earlier and it seems a little harder.  I’ll write more later about some surprising things I’ve discovered in these three months but the kids are clamoring to watch the movie (Evan Almighty) so I’ll close.

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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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