Tag Archives: Tell-a-Vision

Cable: The Cold, Dead Fire

This week I was reminded why I don’t have cable. I went on a two-evening business trip and was planning to do some reading in the evenings; I wanted to finish Economics in One Lesson and possibly Boston’s Gun Bible. I ended only getting most of the way through the former.

Why?

Both evenings, when I got back to the hotel room, I turned on the TV for what I planned to be a little relaxation before starting reading. The planned half hour, turned into an entire night. (I should have learned the first night, but didn’t).

Some of it I enjoyed, Duck Dynasty was very entertaining and filled with solid moral lessons; I do not regret watching a few episodes and wanting to watch a couple more was the reason I turned the TV on the second night. But in addition to Duck Dynasty, I ended up watching, among other shows, a multi-hour marathon of those storage auction shows, the movie Hook (which had a certain nostalgia value, but little else), and a few episodes of some retarded Nickelodeon comedy for teenagers, none of which I can say I actually enjoyed watching.

I’m fairly sure my books would have been not only more edifying, but also more entertaining, definitely moreso than the Nickoledean comedy. Yet, I watched these shows anyway.

I had this same problem back when I did have cable. It was so easy to sit down, then continue wasting away time even when I wasn’t enjoying myself or what I was watching. I would spend 15 minutes flipping through the channels, thinking to myself there’s nothing on. Then, thinking if I wait only 15 more minutes, new shows I like will be on. I could occasionally spend hours in this cycle of non-enjoyment

TV is manufactured to pulls at your senses and suck you in. After it sucks you in, it drains your energy and will to do anything else. The passivity of TV makes it unlike any other medium. Print require active reading, video games require active involvement, but TV requires nothing other than to lie down a shut up. It is so very easy to waste large amounts of time not enjoying yourself watching TV.

Cable makes it worse. With so much variety, it is always easy to find a show that is, if not entertaining, is barely watchable. It’s such a low threshold to reach, but the primal pull of the colours, the movement, the sound, the manufactured ‘relationships’, the ‘overheard’ conversation makes it difficult to resist the lure of the barely watchable. You are being manipulated on levels you are barely aware of; I was.

Cable TV is a soul-sucking distraction.

We could even say, it leaves you desouled, butthexed, and bernankified. lolzlollzozlolz

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This excerpt from Chapter 12 of the Screwtape Letters proves apt:

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”.

Is there any better expression of the compulsion to watch TV than that: “I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”

Can you think of anything worse to think to yourself at the end of your life? I can’t.

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Now, this is not a blanket condemnation of TV; man should have some leisure and relaxation and some shows are genuinely worth watching even absent the entertainment value (I put Yes, Minister on the DE Reading List for a reason). But you should only watch, in moderation, what you actually enjoy or what may inform you or make you a better person.

Spending hours watching commercial-filled crap which meets the minimal requirement of not completely unwatchable simply because it pulls at at your laziness and other primal compulsions you don’t quite understand is a waste.

My advice, if you have cable or satellite TV get rid of it. If there’s a specific show you want to watch, stream it on Netflix or get the DVD’s, but having cable makes it far to easy to get sucked into a time-wasting vortex where you are neither entertained nor doing anything productive.

I’m almost glad I had that experience at the hotel, it reminded me of the cold dead fire. It reminded me of the dangers of cable and why I decided against it in the first place. It’s a lifeless, joyless way to waste your life.

Get rid of cable, buy a book, some ammo, or even some Simpsons DVD’s instead. You’ll get a lot more out of it.