I wrote what you are about to read a few days ago. I decided not to publish it since later that evening I reconnected with my television. But I guess I will incriminate myself now and hang what I wrote on my blog for a few people in the world to see. I just touched it up a bit, cleaned up some of the grammar errors and toned down some of the more vulgar rants against my television that are probably best kept to myself. I have gone against everything I wrote about in what you are about to read (for now). Just last night I fell asleep watching David Letterman and woke up at three in the morning and watched QVC ( I almost bought a super-blender but convinced myself that I did not need it). I suppose the part of me that wrote what you are about to read feels like a hypocrite and is slightly embarrassed to admit that I am still giving into the distracting pleasures of my TV. But oh well, I am not perfect and I realize that because of my anxious mind, I am more susceptible to a lot of temptations than most men.
On Turning My F_____G Television Permanently Off
The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.
-from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
As soon as I am done writing this, I will be doing something that would seem impossible, if not down right idiotic, to the vast majority of American denizens. I will be unplugging my television. All of the often satisfying euphoric images and sales pitches that come through the plastic box that sits on my shelf, will be taken off of life support. The cable box will be dissembled, the electrical cord unplugged and the television stuck into a closet. I can already hear all of my neighbors whose bedrooms and front rooms are always lit up by the ominous television screens glow screaming various impassioned exhortations like: Why the hell would you do that?, A little television never hurt anyone!, Why would you want to cut yourself off from the world like that?, But it’s so good for relaxation!, Are you crazy?
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
I tried. I really tried. I stopped reading before bed and starting flicking back and forth between David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. I tried to be interested in their monologues, which always seemed to make the audience laugh while leaving me feeling like I did not get the funny part of the joke. I tried to be interested in the conversations that these men where having with their rich and famous guests despite knowing that it was all just a set up to market a movie or television show or a lifestyle or to sell an album. I tried to be interested in the nightly news, despite knowing that I was letting people much less intelligent than me tell me things that I knew they themselves knew very little about. In the mornings I would turn on the television and watch programs like Good Morning America for a bit before getting out of bed despite the fact that I felt such disdain for the hosts and participants of these morning television shows. I had nothing in common with any of them (except my basic human biological processes) yet I kept watching. It was as if the artificiality of these television personalities put a spell over me and I was often unable to take my attention away from their banality. I became fascinated by their sadistic and manipulative ability to fascinate me. Why was I so interested? How could it happen to me of all people? How could I actually feel like these idiots were talking to me? Jeeze. I actually traded in a daily morning meditation practice for the slothful pleasures of lingering in bed watching morning television shows. If you are starting to get the picture here, you will understand that television has made me into the kind of man I never wanted to be.
And then there where those blank mid-afternoon or late night hours where I stared mindlessly and sleeplessly into the glare of the television screen, watching artificial drone like people sell me products that I actually started to believe I needed. A few times my hand was close to the phone. I was seconds away from falling under their spell and ordering the crap they had to sell. I, me, supposedly insusceptible to popular cultures manipulative tricks was hypnotized by sales pitches and a consumerist late night high. The way these publicly worshiping materialists could sell their god in the form of purses, vacuum cleaners, paper shredders, solar lights, sweaters, jackets, blenders, skin creams, crock pots and other useless products with such immense joie de vivre put me into a kind of fascinated daze. I was sucked in. I learned more about these products than I could ever imagine. I also judged other human beings more than I could ever imagine judging another person at four in the morning. Really I was just judging myself for letting myself go so much that I was awake in bed at four in the morning watching QVC. Television was starting to make me hate myself and that must be why I have such deep disdain for all these television personalities. It is kind of like making a deal with the devil.
In exchange for watching television I gave up practices that I had once prided myself on. I stopped meditating in the mornings, reading in bed, listening to the radio, making art and contemplating things that I was grateful for experiencing throughout the day before falling to sleep. Granted before watching television in bed I did have trouble falling to sleep. I would often lay awake for up to an hour thinking about various unpleasant things before venturing into unknown territory. In this sense television has been medicinal for me. Good sleep medicine. But what about the negative side effects? Should I just put all of that out of my mind and continue to experience the few benefits of the medicine I am taking despite the fact that I am getting fatter, lazier, more apathetic, angrier, less fulfilled and engaged in my life? Quite a price to pay for being able to fall right to sleep the moment I finally decide to turn off the TV and stop bathing myself in its euphoric, white, fluorescent glow. Do I really want my life to come to this? Do I really want to be a television watcher?
And after all- what is television if not a massively effective vehicle to sell people shit while entertaining them to death? This is what television is- a massive tool for selling things. Even the nightly news sells us fear. We passively buy it and as a result do what our masters tell us. We allow ourselves to be governed by the television in exchange for getting to be distracted from ourselves for a few hours. Television in a Faustian bargain, you can be entertained and forget about yourself and all of your problems in exchange for yourself. Meanwhile all those actors, directors, producers, late night and early morning talk show hosts, advertisers and news anchors are making a fortune in exchange for your soul. Fuck that.
I admit- I am incredibly excited to never have to see any of these people ever again. Of course I live in LA, so I might see some of them on billboards or in adds but I will not have to voluntarily listen to them speak anymore. No more jokes, no more selling me things and no more dreadfully boring conversations, commercials and television shows. My relationship with all of these plastic people can be ended the moment I unplug my television set. I look so forward to not having my day punctuated by any of these false friendships with late night television hosts, plastic sales people, morning time talking heads, news casters who are really just puppets dressed in suits. Gradually I hope my soul will feel safe enough to come back into my body and we can get back to the creative, authentic and deeply satisfying work that we are on earth to do. I am looking forward to reading in bed again and waking up in the morning without being tempted by that flat screen. I realize it may be hard to get to sleep at night, but instead of bathing myself in the opiated-fluorescent-white-television-glow, I will take the money I will save on my cable bill and go out and buy an aromatherapy diffuser so I can breathe in the scents of calming essential oils before falling off to sleep for the night.
Goodbye television land. Maybe I will briefly revisit you in a hotel room somewhere but for now it is time to get up and go permanently unplug that fucking TV.