Wednesday, September 26, 2007


George Orwell got it backwards. Our biggest problem is not that Big Brother wastes all day looking at us, it that we spend all day looking at him.

It is difficult for me to be anywhere that has television sets; restaurants, grocery store checkout lines, the barbershop, you name it. I make a mental promise to myself, “I will NOT look at the television. I will NOT look at the television!” But before I know it, my attention has drifted and I am looking at the screen. “I swear, ‘The Worlds Worst Soccer Accidents’ is not more interesting than you are.” But of course, they are down to number three . . .

It is a regular occurrence to go on a communion call or in bringing the oils to someone’s bedside and the television is blaring. It is especially bad if the person is hard of hearing for it will be loud. After trying to fight to be heard over Dr. Phil for a while I’ll ask, “WOULD YOU MIND IF WE TURNED THE T.V. OFF FOR A MINUTE?” It is amazing to me how effectively some people can tune the beast out to the point of not even realizing it is on. “Oh? Is it bothering you?”

A friend of mine is desperately trying to stop watching the television. It doesn’t help that he has a T.V. in practically every room of his house. It reminded me of a hotel suite a friend of mine had in Las Vegas once. There was even a television in the bathroom. IN THE BATHROOM. LARGE SCREEN! I told him to start getting rid of the televisions. We don’t speak anymore.

I always wondered why it seemed that when I was visiting my parent’s house I was always speaking over the arms of the chairs at people. Then I realized, that was because all the furniture faced the television. It was the honored guest in the room. But they were hardly unique. This is the case in many living rooms. I wonder what archaeologists from the future not knowing what a television is would make of such an arrangement. “We believe that this was their shrine. Families would gather for hours at a time a meditate before it.”

Oh, I am not without guilt. I do happily report however that I have a tiny, used, ancient television in my room and the remote is broken and I like it that way. Surfing is a horrible affair involving prying myself up off of the couch and pressing the up and down buttons on the set (the up one works better than the down one) between the three stations that regularly play “Law and Order”. Maybe the thing will die altogether and I can be set free from the addiction.

It is one thing to purposefully watch T.V., it is another to Zen-out becoming one with the couch and screen. We were put here to do more than watch bad television re-runs. “We are entertaining ourselves to death.” My friend who was trying to give it up (I was kidding about us not speaking any longer) is having a terribly difficult time. He has forgotten how to be without television eating up tremendous amounts of time. Talking. Board games. Night walks. Sitting on the front porch and watching the neighborhood. Exercising. Thinking. Playing a musical instrument. Writing letters. Going over to the neighbors for cards. Prayer. Crafts – you know, the craft fairs are getting smaller because “young folk do not have the time to do crafts anymore”. Is that sad or what? But I can tell you who won “Dancing with the Stars”. Knowing how to entertain ourselves is being wiped out with the mass nightly absorbing of Geiko commercials.

Wow. Maybe I’m getting old. This sounds like something my parents would have said.

I’m sacred.

I think that I will stop now.

Besides, “Law and Order” is on.


Anonymous said...

TV watching was at a minimum when the girls were growing up.. I didn't even want them seeing Punky Brewster, as I thought it rather negative, so one can imagine what I thought of The Nanny, et al. Well, there's truly soft-porn on now, and at premium viewing hours--I found that out while we were freshening up a resident. I looked over at her tv to see a naked girl running around. Poor holy J, who had put THIS on for her?? Then I realized a greater horror.. it was only about 7:30 pm. Even the littler kids were seeing this? Sickening.

I must admit, tho', that my girls came in one dreadful winter afternoon a year ago to find me glazed-eyed before the tube. They looked at the screen and then at me. "Spanish soap opera, Mom?" Uh huh, it's either this, or Oprah or court tv where Daughter will sue Mom. "You can't understand a word of this, can you?" Nope. That was the best part. I explained that the Spanish soap's men's wardrobe was mind-bending. Excuuuuse me, I never get to see suits anymore, nor big hoop earrings.

They go well with the suits, yes. (Kidding)

I looked into my front room just now; there's a piano, 2.5 chairs (one is for a little guy, made in the shape of a bunny) and a sofa. They all face the tv! Again, kidding, but excellent points here, Fr. V. My husband is anti-tv, he hates it, denounces it as a mind-waster, time-stealer..and he has railed about it being on when we have been invited over somewhere; indeed, he sees that as being deliberately rude, whereas I see it as inadvertently some sort of comforting white noise. But to this day, if he sees it on--anywhere-- he goes all glazed immediately. (*coff coff..) It's him I worry about.


Barbara said...

I thought you'r like to know that there's at least one FAMILY out there that does not watch television. We have one TV in the basement - not in the living room. We do not have cable. Ocasionally my 14-year old son will try to watch sports, but now the antenna is broken, so even the few channels we get don't come in very well.

When the mother of a friend of my son's heard that we did not have cable, she told him to invite my son over to watch it. He laughed and said, "Why would I want to do that?"

We also do not have a gaming system! There is hope.

And, like you, I object to being televisioned to death. I like to read in waiting rooms - I have no desire to see the daytime talk shows.

Rob said...

We have only one TV, though we do have cable (no reception out in the country here). For a year we experimented with having two TVs, but everybody was always watching the tube so we sold it. Now we have to share. I like the cable becuase I use the TV as a stereo and listen to a classical music station when I have do housework (thus, we do not have an "entertainment center" with TV, stereo, CD player, etc. Just the TV).

We do not have a gaming system.

uncle jim said...

I don' think I like this post. I'm going in to watch "How things are made" on some educational channel.

I spend too much time in front of the screen . . . THIS screen in front of me right now.

uncle jim said...

Oh, and Rob, I think you owe me a story. I'm keeping a spread-sheet chart to see who keeps their web-word.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father: I could not agree more.

The rearranging of the nations living rooms and eating habits to accomodate the television set, is, I think, a marker of some of our societal and familial decline.

JP said...

Our TV is relegated to the basement. As I have mobility issues, I'm rarely in its presence, and even more rarely facing it.

I cannot stand sitting in a restaurant trying to make conversations with the sides of people's faces.

Our children have spent large parts of their lives without TV at all.

What gets me is someone starting a conversation out with something like "Have you seen...?" and I reply no, I don't watch TV. The conversation continues "Oh, then have you seen...?". At this point I smile and say nothing. There's no point.

I do spend a good deal of time with the computer. I have cut back, but it is so nice to have complete control over what you see and read. My dh described it as a book that never ends. I have learned more about my Faith since I started using a computer than I would have with another lifetime watching TV.


paramedicgirl said...

Father, I haven't watched TV since 1993. I do watch the occasional movie, but most don't interest me beyond the first few minutes, and I have no idea what TV shows are popular. I also can't stand it when people use the TV for "background noise."

When I am on an ambulance call in the patient's home, I will turn off the TV or radio so that I can hear the blood pressure and not be distracted during my patient interview. It's surprising how many people make a shrine out of their television.

Rob said...

Uncle Jim,

Hey, I'm working on it. (Sheesh, I can't even find sanctuary on a priest's blog!) LOL!

Anonymous said...

When my children were young I made a practise of only putting the TV on when there was a programme we wished to watch and turning it off when the programme was over.

I watch, on average, about 5 hours of TV a year and my children who are young adults now will watch a couple of programmes a week. My children were not permitted to have TV or an internet connected computer in their bedrooms until they were in their 20s when they purchased these items themselves.

My husband has cable because he likes sports and Greek TV. Yes the Greek soaps are a hoot!

Vincenzo said...

EWTN is worthwhile.

Fr. V said...

Vincenzo - you are right - not EVERYTHING on T.V. is bad, but it seems that way sometimes.

Excellent comments one and all! If everyone were like you there would either be a lot less T.V. or it would be a whole heck of a lot better.

Joe said...

In a wonderfully ironic moment (which makes the show charming, too) on Stargate, Atlantis, the first line of the show was spoken by a human-looking alien (a regular on the show), clearly in the midst of a conversation with "earthlings": "You mean, people would sit around together, looking at a box?"
I am indefensibly addicted to 2 hours a week, and would give those up for the end of television.

Sarah said...

*jumping up and down*

Fr. V - you NAILED IT. I don't think TV is the devil, but it is a time sink in so many ways, and like so much else in our culture, it feeds an appetite that's addictive. Laziness? Gluttony? Nah, not for everyone. But for some.

Great post.