On Thanksgiving, after we had all stuffed ourselves with lots of tasty food, we waddled to the family room to watch TV and let the mashed potatoes settle in our tummies before digging in to the pies. (Mmm, pie…)
As we sat there, the news came on and one segment was on the hottest toys of the season. They went down the line showing a dancing Dora, Bigfoot with remote control, Thomas train that followed a flashlight, et cetera.
All of the toys had something in common: batteries and noise.
And lack of creativity. I mean, how many times can you push a button on Dora to watch her dance? (Unfortunately many parents will tell you, “Too many.” All of these toys looked extremely annoying to parents – the kind they’ll hide on the top shelf of the closet because “Bigfoot’s taking a nap.”) Because they were also all one-trick ponies, they also seemed like things the kids would get bored of. Awesome use of $59.99…
Reflecting on this further, I was struck by how much those toys fit the way we live our lives. Flashing things entertain us but provide no substance.
A Culture of Entertainment
Confession: I watch at least seven movies a week. Yeah, about one a day – usually at night when I get home from work to unwind. As soon as I take off my shoes I fire up the computer or the DVD player. I like movies. A lot. I really do. But, wow, how much time is that annually if I multiply it all out? I don’t want to think about it.
And that doesn’t include the time I spend dinking around on the internet, mindlessly wandering from site to site, blog to blog, wikipedia entry to wikipedia entry. I don’t need to quote to you the stats on how much time we Americans spend in front of screens – TV or computer. It’s a lot. We all know it. I’m no exception.
So why do we do it?
We like to be entertained. Maybe more than liked. Maybe we feel we NEED it now to get through the day.
Do they even sell minivans / SUVs without TVs in the backseat nowadays? Are our children unable to entertain themselves for 30 minutes while we run errands? I admit if I have kids I’ll be one of those mean, crotchety parents that says, “In my day we didn’t have TVs in the car,” and force my children to listen to the radio instead.
Most of us don’t like silence so much so that we call it “uncomfortable silence”. When’s the last time you sat down with the intention of doing nothing? Maybe sitting on a porch with a cup of tea. No book, no laptop, no smartphone.
We don’t know how to be still.
What We Lose through Overactivity
I’m not saying that all time on the internet or in front of the TV is wasted. Certainly these bits of technology are great tools for helping us learn. But that’s definitely not how I use them. I use them for entertainment.
And by always being entertained, I miss something in the process: time to think.
Entertainment is another word for distraction.
We all have our own things we’re distracted from, but I’ll let you know some of mine:
Cleaning. My place isn’t a dump, but I don’t clean as often as I’d like to. My tower of dirty dishes is pretty much only cleaned when company is coming, or I’m looking for my casserole pan.
Chores. The pocket in my coat has a hole that would take less than five minutes to mend. But I haven’t done it. Likewise with the clean clothes that sit on my floor, folded but not put away in the closet.
Camaraderie. Instead of always talking to my friends on Facebook, maybe I should go to their homes and play a card game. (I do enjoy a rousing round of spoons.) Or even just share life with each other, supporting and uplifting.
Challenge. I bought a keyboard a few years ago with the thought that I’d like to get back into playing the piano again. Instead it sat mostly unused and now sits in my bedroom / storage room.
Contemplation. Don Miller says he believes that “the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time”. I don’t know how true that is in your life, but it’s very true in mine. The more time I spent watching “Lost” the less time I spent thinking and blogging – not just about my crazy idea to move abroad but about everything else in my life.
Ever seen those bumper stickers that say “Kill Your Television”? Killing your TV is easy. I think people who brag about being a TV-free household are kind of pretentious.
It’s a lot harder to kill your computer.
On Monday morning, I’m taking my laptop battery to work. And shutting it in a desk drawer. No home computer from now until Christmas.
I’ve already become better at watching less TV since switching inputs from cable to DVD to VCR is tricky, but I’m going to let it gather some dust.
Thankfully, I don’t have a smartphone or video game consoles* but I’d be turning those off as well.
*I’ve considered getting a Wii many times because it IS very fun, but I know myself well enough to know that I’d become a Wii-potato.
A month without screens.
I already sit in front of a computer for 40 hours a week. If I need to write an e-mail or want to check Facebook, I’ll do it there during my lunch break. Or I’ll walk a few blocks to the library, sit in a super uncomfortable seat, and fire up one of those babies.
Instead of being entertained all the time, I’m going to try to spend my time being productive and creative.
- I’ll get outside more for walks and running.
- I’ll paint and sew.
- I’ll keep my apartment cleaner. Even the dishes.
- I’ll cook more meals.
- I’ll pull my keyboard out of the bedroom and try to finally learn Claire de Lune.
- I’ll explore this town I’ve called home for ten years.
- I’ll read – but try to limit fluffy entertainment reading and instead focus on things that make me think.
- And I’ll try to learn to be still.
Have I mentioned how much a love Netflix? Particularly live-streaming. I can pick a movie and watch it right away. It’s AWESOME!
It’ll be a real struggle for me to give up my beloved movies for a month but I’m also kind of excited to see if I can do it. And excited to see what new things I discover. I’m daring myself, and I don’t back down from a dare.
I’ve got 36 hours until this starts. Commencing last-minute media binging! If you need me, I’ll be in the TARDIS…