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Tuning Out 101: A Tutorial

Jan
16
2008

I know what you all are doing out there, America, and I’m telling you right now you can flip and flip and flip all you want but there is nothing new on television right now worth anyone’s time.
Just to prove this, the Writers’ Guild of America strike has networks so desperate Hulk Hogan has his own show. Hulk Hogan. Think about how you’ll feel about yourself when in retrospect you remember you devoted time from your life watching Hulk Hogan . . . parent.
Now – NOW – is your chance to escape. Now, before they settle the strike. Quickly – get off the couch (that feeling of heaviness – that’s what it’s like to stand upright, a position humans labored millenniums to achieve), walk to the television and – see that little button that has the words “power” under it? – push it.
Don’t be frightened! I know the screen is blank and new things are sometimes scary. But it’s o…k…a…y. Breeeeeath. And, above all, don’t panic. Yes, the silence can be terrifying at first, but we’ll fill it in a moment.
Now. Look beside you. The person you see is probably your spouse. They’ve aged a bit since you last took a real look at them, but try not to allow the shock to show on your face. They are equally traumatized.
Oh, and that teenager over there? The one emerging from his room in a daze? That’s your offspring. Yeah, the one who was last seen dancing to a Barney and His Friends video. What you are going to do is talk to him. Oh, yes you are! To help out, I’ll suggest some dialogue: “How’s it goin’?”
He will grunt, but don’t let that daunt you. Just like you, he’s learning to communicate on an unfamiliar level with another human being. Remember, you don’t need Hulk Hogan to show you how to be a parent.
I know you’re tempted to hit that power button again. Just background noise, you say; you won’t even look at it, you say. But just remember that feeling you get when you realize you’ve just blown three hours watching inane personalities with too much money and attention over-dramatize their spoiled lifestyles when you could have been doing something more productive like, say, bathing; that feeling of despair that perhaps there is more to life beyond this little quadrangle of light in front of your face.
Feel the despair. Let it wash over you and resist temptation.
Okay. Now, gather your loved ones – gently, gently – lead them to the front door. Yes, some may need help, their muscles having atrophied because you were the one who took up most of the couch; it will, therefore be harder for them to straighten their knees. Call your dog – the one that has been having behavior problems in spite of the hundreds of dollars you’ve spent sending him to obedience classes – and leash him. We’re going out the front door.
Now you’ve done this before, so it shouldn’t be too scary. Only this time we are not driving to the Chinese take-out. We’re not going near the car. We’re going for a walk. You might want to don some sunglasses. Natural light can be a shock on the cornea.
No need to duck! Those are just birds and they won’t hit you. They pretty much stay in the trees and they are what your dog, for lack of anything else to do, has been barking at.
Now, we’re walking, we’re walking. Isn’t this nice? Look at all this color without a square border around it. See? Nature looks just like on the National Geographic channel!
Okay, let’s not overdo it the first day. Pretty soon you won’t be able to keep yourself indoors. Soon you’ll jaunt along with your dog, perhaps even throw a ball for him to catch. Perhaps it isn’t even too late to teach your teenager a similar skill. But for now we’re going back in the house and try something else.
NO! DO NOT touch that television. Don’t even look at it. Think. What has it ever done for you? Robbed you of your real life, convinced you that you needed things you didn’t and that other people were more interesting and important than you. Ignore that box of heartbreak and lies. Come with me into the kitchen.
Sit down at the table – you are going to eat a meal with your family. You are going to talk to them. Just to warn you, it’s going to be very uncomfortable at first because right now you are unprepared.
But, wait. Once you start doing things with your time, you will have plenty to talk about. You will discuss newspaper and magazine articles you’ve read, books, projects you’ve completed, or places you’ve visited. You will talk about things you’ve done, things like bowling or chess or music lessons, all the activities that the television wanted you to think makes you a geek or a loser when, in fact, it just wanted to keep you within its sphere of influence.
Believe me, it will get easier and pretty soon you will find turning on the television an intrusion. Oh, there will always be that little part of you for which it’s easier to watch life than live it, but you will recognize it for the thief that it is.
And then remember what I’ve taught you and go pass it on to someone else, someone you love in whom you recognize that glassy-eyed blankness indicative of a television slave.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:07 AM | Permalink

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