January 10, 2011 | Posted in: Philosophy

Of all the things rattling around in my head today, I feel compelled to tell you how much I dislike TV (we’ve got them in our home … but they are NOT my friends). I find the programming inconsequential at best and [devastatingly] destructive at worse. For the last 20+ years I’ve been lobbying against them in my home in great part because my beloved husband is literally addicted to the cable news channels (he’s been taking them intravenously since 1991’s Desert Storm).

Despite my protesting the incessant loop of negative blather, my sweetheart felt it was important to keep the news on in order to ‘stay informed’. No matter how vocal I got, having the news on two to three hours a day remained a reality in my home. Argh! But as Helen Reddy says, I am woman, and I learned long ago how to get what I wanted from my man. Girls, you know how to do it, too. It’s called timing … and timing is everything.

This past year when Bob got around to earnestly asking me what he could give me for Christmas, the timing was right.  “YOU — wrapped in nothing but a big red bow … and an unplugged TV for the next 12 months.” (insert sweet, coy, smile here). What more could the man say but, “Ok”? And, that’s how I ended up getting the best Christmas present ever! Especially now.

Though we don’t have the TV on, I’m still fully aware of last weekend’s tragic Tucson shooting of several innocent people as well as House Representative Gabby Giffords. Horrific. The cold blooded murders continue to assault my senses and make me cry. The continuous loop of a beautiful nine year old girl gunned down by a psychopath. Good men and women clinging to life. The walking [emotionally] wounded that attended the event but escaped life-threatening injuries. The incessant vitriolic rhetoric of the Left vs the Right. The insanity of it all does nothing but make us want to find a dark closet in which to hide. And, this from someone who hasn’t read one single article or watched any of the gruesome details.

First let me say that my heart is completely and utterly heartbroken for everyone who’s lives have been touched by this situation (and that includes you and me). 9/11 proved to us that we as a nation suffer these tragedies together. Sadly the Tucson incident is different in that 9/11 knitted us closer together while this one is being manipulated by the media to drive us apart. I blame TV.

The crazy finger pointing of the radical fringes (both on the right and the left), aided and abetted by a blood thirsty media who fuels the drama by providing a constant regurgitation of every single thing they can get they’re dirty hands on. I’m not watching but I know it’s happening. It’s what they do. It’s what sells. And it’s what’s killing our very hearts and souls.

When I was little TV was very different. The Andy Griffith Show. Leave it to Beaver. Ponderosa. I Love Lucy. Walter Cronkite. Good stuff. Back then, an average minute of programing gave us seven different scene changes. We could easily follow the dialogue between Opie and his father without being over stimulated. As TV has evolved, we’re now seeing our children bombarded with as many as 32 scenes per minute and, as my friend, Andy Waltrip [an expert on these types of statistics] tells me, there’s proof this over-stimulation is one of the main culprits in producing ADD and ADHD in our children!

It takes 25 years for the human brain to become fully mature. The rush of over-stimulation is organically too much for our children’s brains. TV is killing their ability to follow a story line and to stay connected to what’s happening in real life, the life that moves significantly slower in real time. They’ve become like Pavlov’s dog. The hyperactivity of TV means if they’re not being constantly over-stimulated, they’re GONE. Off the edge. Chasing rabbits down endless rabbit holes created for them by the likes of MTV gangsters. All I can say is, “Would you like some milk with your Ritalin, Bobby?” And, by the way, your brain is fully formed and TV isn’t doing you a lick of good either.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It couldn’t be more true than with TV. How can we expect our lives to get better when we constantly over-stimulate it with nothing but the tragic and deeply disturbing things we see on TV? Rather than put on our coat and take a walk with our loved ones; or spend time volunteering at a retirement center; or taking underprivileged children on a field trip to the library, we sit glued to that worthless box and lament the sorry state of our world. I’ve simply had enough. I’ve no choice in the matter but to do my part to wake those I love out of their senseless stupor and encourage them to have 2011 be the year they turn off the TV.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Turning it off (or unplugging it as in our case) is much easier than you think.

My ‘gotta stay informed’ husband, found he didn’t miss the news near as much as he thought he would. And, it didn’t hurt when he turned in the multiple cable boxes to find he’d saved a $1,000 over the course of the next year. That said, he’s still not crazy about playing Scrabble with me every night (he thinks I have an unfair advantage because I know how to spell a lot of seven letter words!), but he’s coming around to the fact that he’s enjoying spending that precious hour with me — rather than with Bill O’Reilly.  😉

Though it took me twenty years to get my way on this issue it was worth the wait. While the strategy rumbled around in my head, I remember being in deep contemplation about how turned off I was to TV as I walked around Walden Pond (in Concord, MA) in 2007. My hero, Henry David Thoreau, spent two years living alone on that pond and then went on to chronicle his experience in his masterpiece, ‘Walden’, one of my favorite books of all time.

‘Walden’. It’s literary genius of the most inspired order. To me, it simply reads like poetry and prose. Stimulating. Pensive. Thought provoking. A real game changer. There’s a particular passage in the book that’s one of my favorites and is in great part why I’m so turned off to TV. Thoreau writes about the worthlessness of reading a daily newspaper (the TV of his time), and here’s what he says:

And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter — we never need to read of another. One is enough.”

This, my friends, is timeless wisdom that I’ve been carrying around in my heart for years. I thought deeply into it while my husband and I walked the beaten path to Thoreau’s cabin. His words are what influenced my daily thinking as I tried to get my husband to understand the need to unplug my nemesis, those horrid looped cable news images of burning houses, murdered children, brutal rapes, genocide, war, and the disgustingly glorified, smarmy piccadillo’s of insignificant-here-today-gone-tomorrow-celebrities … and now, those of a 22 year old deranged killer.  Sickening.

Like Thoreau, I’ve no desire to watch the same house burn or the same murderer kill over and over again. I know, first hand, the heartbreak that everyone is enduring from last weekend’s tragic event. But … wisdom is denied the young and obviously I’m a slower learner than Thoreau. He got it the first time around. I on the other hand had to watch similar scenarios play out 180,000 more times before I could say, “Once is enough!”

In conclusion, in the event this message got your attention, but you’re trying to justify the fact that not all TV is bad, I hear you. Yes, there are a few good programs worth watching. The History and Biography channels for example. But 99.9 percent of TV viewing is of no real value. Sitcoms, fake reality shows, and in-your-face-bad-behavior. It is pure insanity to think that seeing anymore of this negative stuff is going to make our lives (or our children’s lives) one whit better.

For your sake, and for those you love, consider turning it off, if not for a year, then at least a week or two. If neither of these choices work, then consider reading Thoreau’s masterpiece “Walden”. Or better yet, come walk with me on Walden Pond. We’ve so many important things to talk about, so many significant things to accomplish, and so many lives to touch.

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Walden Pond. Admittedly more beautiful today than when Thoreau was alive merely for the fact that he walked its shores innumerable times.

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No bigger than a shed this is an exact replica of the house in which Thoreau lived during his two years on Walden. Nothing to do but think … and leave behind powerful thoughts that will live forever.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with the song still in them.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

To honor the lives of those who died last week, stop living a life of quiet desperation. Don’t die with your song unsung. Don’t watch American Idol. Rather, do what it takes to become an American Hero. Sing your song. Dance your dance. And, following in Representative Giffords footsteps, be the change you wish to see in the world.

Turn it off.