Freedom From TV

I gave up watching television, listening to news, expensive technology and eating any junk food this past week. This wasn’t a broader, well thought out decision saying, ‘I must abandon all for the sake of humanity.’ However, I will say that after just one week, I feel saner and probably more humane. I feel less anxious and my housemate, ‘Speakeasy,’ who never speaks (hence his name), sleeps better. It’s hard to know; he’s a cat. Sleeps when I’m there, sleeps when I’m not.

Allow me to explain.

Over the years, I’ve read various experts claiming to profess that abstinence is the key to happiness. Booze, sugar, smoking, caffeine, smartphones, tablets, sex, drugs, vaccines, UV, AV, DVDs and CDs must be eliminated. More than likely, toilet paper, toothpaste, and car wax are next.

As mentioned in a previous post, I confess that I have not achieved victory over all my attachments, as have enjoyed some immensely – with chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a good, soft, warm raisin cookie being two of many.  All of these are attachments.

The word attachment has long been used by spiritual traditions to describe this process. It comes from the old French attaché, meaning “nailed to.” Attachment “nails” our desire to specific objects and creates addiction. In this light, we can see why traditional psychotherapy, which is based on the release of repression, has proven ineffective with addictions. It also shows why addiction is the most powerful psychic enemy of humanity’s desire for God.

Spiritually speaking, it has been said addiction, in its basic form, is just a deep-seated form of idolatry. These addictions become our false gods. These are what we worship, what we attend to, where we give our time and energy, instead of love. Addiction, then, displaces and supplants God’s love as the source and object of our deepest true desire. It is, as one modern spiritual writer has called it, a “counterfeit of religious presence.”

Not that I’ve covered all that gobbledygook, I’ll be honest, I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but unless they are in a bowl next to me while watching a Cubs game, I’ve given neither time nor energy. But that’s not to excuse them either. Likewise, associating a warm, fresh baked raisin cookie to a golden calf … ah … appears to be a stretch. On the other hand, new cell phones, the flash of lights from a new computer, the bink, bop, boink as the hard drive carves out commands hooks me.

I didn’t give up technology because I was addicted. Rather, the desire to abandon television came as a result of being busy. The effect, however, was impressive. And I learned a few lessons along the way.

Creative Bursts of Energy

I didn’t have a love affair with TV, but I placed a lot of mental effort into television programs I watched. While meant to be entertainment, I realized how much of it isn’t. I used television to decompress. Thus, instead of being entertained, I re-purposed those hours toward creating something of value.

I also moved more. Instead of sitting, I walked. Humoring Speakeasy, I danced, read to him as he slept on my lap and played hide and seek with him. In return, he moved more, chased more and rested easier.

Relationships Are Important

Real relationships are more important than television. Life situations and people are overwhelmingly better. A lot of what we do is done because we’ve imitated TV. We unconsciously become our actors. You might socialize in person versus via Twitter or Facebook. You might able to eliminate the “text me before you call rule.”

Returning Time

I gained time and felt ridiculously wonderful. Cutting meaningless tasks meant empowering the meaningful.

Some countries are treating television and other handheld devices as a public health crisis. In the U.S., tech companies are developing code and apps to help limit screen use. Apple has developed Screen Time. With Screen Time, you can access real-time reports about how much time you spend on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and set limits for what you want to manage. However, I presume that will wear off and slowly die.

During the week, I noticed other changes. Instead of junk food and soda, I opted for salads and tea. Coffee got cut. By the third day, I felt more awake and aware. I also put away the massive pseudo-6.4-inch cell phone/dinner platter and dropped back into a 5.8 iPhone. Again, this wasn’t a conscious effort, but something I did. Now, I look only at email, a few Internet searches, some quick news and listen to soft jazz.

What I’ve noticed these past several days is the number of people who walked past while texting. We don’t even look up anymore. Have we forgotten how to live life?

My phone does not cruise Facebook posts or other social media because I don’t have a personal account. I gave up such social media accounts because they were not satisfying. Buddha urged followers to live simply and rid themselves of luxury and attachments. I’ll admit, I still use cellphones and other computers, but I don’t use them for happiness and fulfillment. Fulfillment via cellphone is just an illusion.

So, make time. Get up and play. As the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, wrote in the strip’s last panel,”Let’s go exploring.”

Speaking of play … Coming Speakeasy.



Categories: Life Lessons

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