Children between 2 and 5 spend an average of 32 hours per week looking at a television. For children 6 to 11 that number is 28 hours per week. Adults average five hours of TV per day. Five hours. Average.
I’ve come to think of television as a kind of colonization of our minds. How can we even know what we think, how we feel when so much of our perception is crowded by programming created by other people whose motivation is to sell us stuff? How are our deepest fears, dreams, and addictions manipulated to make us buy things that we don’t need and can’t afford?
For the past twenty years, I haven’t had a television in my home. I don’t miss it. On the few occasions I do watch the news with my mom or flip through channels in a hotel room, I’m struck by the …well…violence of it. Not just the bang-bang-you’re-dead kind of violence – which is rampant and disturbing enough. I mean the loud, harsh, yammering noise of it. The cacophonous ads that urge me to “act fast, buy now, don’t wait!” By the time I turn off the tube, I find that I like my fellow human beings a lot less.
I do enjoy watching films or television shows on my laptop every week or two. That’s different. I choose the timeframe. There are no ads. When the movie is finished, that’s that. I turn it off and go about my business.
I find the television screens intrusive and ugly, even when they are turned off. When I stay in a hotel room with a large television screen, I bring a scarf along to cover it. My well-traveled nephew does the same and even unplugs the thing.
Last night I was meeting with two beloved clients to do some planning for their upcoming conference. I get to be the singing emcee – or, as they like to call it – the “weaver” for their symposium on relationship based health care next year. I treasure every moment with these two visionary, brave, and loving leaders. The wine was delicious, the conversation lively and inspiring. And there were screens everywhere, blaring the latest horrors of the world via CNN. There wasn’t a place in that elegant hotel bar that didn’t have a direct sightline to a screen.
One of the consequences of not having TV in my daily life is that I can’t ignore it when it’s around. My eye gets irresistibly drawn to the screen. Yesterday instead of bringing my full attention to co-creating something remarkable with two brilliant colleagues, I was managing the tug of the screen at the corners of my eye.
Our time is our most precious gift. Our full presence with each other is invaluable. So take a listen to this song….and consider turning off the boob tube for awhile…or forever!
Turn off your TV.
Green things are growing out of the ground.
Water is falling down from the sky.
There’s a lot of fine things your money can’t buy.