It proves, on close examination, that work is less boring than amusing one-self.
– Charles Baudelaire
I have already spent some time discussing the narcotics that are used to numb the pain and the joy of human existence. Today, more than two-thirds of the way into this year of journey, I ask you to focus on television and its place in your life. Some people do not own televisions by choice, and others do not have televisions by circumstance, but most people—even the very poorest, even those in the most remote areas of the world, living without indoor plumbing—not only own televisions but have set up those televisions as guests of honor throughout the house. The sets occupy eye-drawing positions, resting on precious pieces of furniture, adorned with all sorts of accoutrements: remote control devices so that only wrist movement is necessary, VCRs, cable boxes to allow access to hundreds of options for zoning out. More than drugs, more than alcohol, televisions have become the narcotic of choice in our culture. This is not to suggest that television is not a remarkable medium, one that can bring vital information, connection to people and places that were once beyond us.
Television is both of these things and much more. And yet, it is also the most prevalent way in which people flee, avoid, deny, and escape reality and relationship. You watch the suffering on a soap opera, and yet cannot see the suffering in your own home. You gasp at the danger in a thriller, and yet cannot see the crisis in your partner’s eyes.
If each time you approached the television, you first asked yourself what else you could be doing, with whom you could be engaging, what might the answer be?
A CONSCIOUS LIVING PRACTICE FOR TODAY – AUGUST 27
For the next twenty-four hours, your television is broken. Commit yourself to doing anything but watching television. Feel what you feel as you do this; you may find yourself feeling cut adrift, or you may feel a sense of despair—we often do when we give up our crutches—and this is all right. Let yourself feel whatever arises, and do not judge yourself, but do not give in to the feelings by “medicating” yourself with the television. Read, talk, watch your loved ones, walk, dream, write, or sit with your eyes open and do absolutely nothing at all. Just be.
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