Tune-in to life by tuning out TV
One Friday evening recently, this week’s guest speaker and Unity Spiritual Center congregant Erin Donovan was relaxing outdoors around 11:00 pm and noticed that every house in the vicinity that had a light on was emitting a “blue glow.” That blue glow, of course, was people watching television. While not at all an unusual occurrence, she was struck by the idea that virtually everyone was sitting in front of the TV instead of engaged in more interpersonal activities.
While there is certainly nothing inherently bad about watching television – there are many high quality programs to see – too often people use TV as a form of escapism or avoidance behavior. Even if one chooses to view reality TV, talent contests, soap operas, sitcoms, or movies there is actually nothing wrong with any of those programs. The greater danger comes from using television viewing as a means of “zoning out,” or as an avoidance behavior from other activities that may be more healthful or productive, engaging more directly with others, or completing tasks that may be necessary but unpleasant.
It is a truism that everyone gets twenty-four hours in a day to do with what they choose – no more and no less. When many people are asked about the reasons why they are not doing more, achieving more, having more, being more, one of the most common answers is a lack of time. It is certainly true that many people have a daily schedule with very little flexibility. For some, employment and family responsibilities do indeed take up most of their day. However, Erin cited a Nielsen report from 2018 that says that the average American is watching 35.5 hours of television per week – that is more than five hours per day.
Television, movies, and internet videos are popular for a reason. They can be informative, humorous, educational, and entertaining. Removing them entirely from your life may not be something you want to do, and that is okay. However, consider that if you are the “average American” watching five hours of television per day, what else you may be able to do if you reduced that by just one hour per day and applied that time to something else. You may find that one hour per day spent learning a musical instrument, another language, or how to paint in watercolors will be far more rewarding than watching that rerun of Seinfeld for the umpteenth time.
Unity has a concept known as The Twelve Powers. These spiritual tools for leading an abundant life are present in every person, and were exemplified in the life of Jesus. While there certainly was no television or internet when Jesus was alive, the human experience has changed very little. The means through which we express ourselves and conduct our lives have surely changed, but our deepest hopes, fears, desires, and needs remain the same. We all want to live a life with meaning. We all want an easier life for our children. We all have a need for human love and connection. At some level we all have a fear of rejection, failure and “not being enough.”
For me, I see two of The Twelve Powers being most helpful in moving beyond the “blue glow syndrome.” The power of Will is the ability to choose, decide, command and determine. By tapping into our power of Will we act in a way that allows us to take control of our lives by being decisive. The power of Zeal is the ability to be enthusiastic, passionate, and motivated. Forming new habits and patterns of behavior is not easy.
But habits have a funny way of developing. The more you do something, the easier it becomes. Kind of like plopping down zombie-like in front of the television. Everyone has something they would like to do but are not doing, because of a perceived lack of time. If you truly do not know what that is, perhaps use some of the time you may have been spending watching television thinking about what you actually would like to do. Try some different things. Sign up for a cooking class or craft workshop. Go to the library and check out some books on different hobbies.
We only get one go around in life. When your life nears the end, do not be a person who regrets the things they never did. There are seven days in a week, and Someday is not one of them.
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11
Pay attention to what the Apostle Paul is telling us here. Wake up!!
Turn off the screens this week. See if you can go the entire week without television and internet video watching. Instead of sitting around bored and feeling directionless, pursue the activities that you have always wanted to do – the things you have been putting off with the excuse “I don’t have the time.” Sit on your porch with your neighbors at night; make a healthy meal to take to lunch the next day; play/move/go on an adventure; get started on that project, start something new. The possibilities are endless, and so is your potential.
Cold turkey is difficult. If you can go a whole week without television that is fantastic! But do not beat yourself up if you attempt this and suffer withdrawal symptoms and watch your favorite show or the news. You may find that if you cut back a little bit at a time that the new activities you are engaging in become your “go to move” instead of passive viewing. What new activity or old pastime will you do this week?