Resist TV

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As I’ve been meditating on animism

and the felt presence of direct experience

Entertaining the notion that

there are no INANIMATE objects

but, rather,

EVERYTHING IS ANIMATED

That’s when I started hearing rock and trees

speak to me.

All perceived boundaries are permeable

No such thing as an independent being

INTER-dependency rings more true

And imagination

IMAGINATION, my friends!

More than that space in your head

where you make shit up

But a hidden faculty

THE Sixth Sense

(to hell with ghosts and Haley Joel Osment!)

Another tool with which to perceive the world

and perhaps even a doorway to other realms

and other modes of consciousness

And this

is making me realize that I watch way too much goddamn television.

One day I just binged watched.  Couldn’t stop myself.   I didn’t want to be watching that much TV, but I needed a fix.  Something to take my mind off of the energy pouring in through my crown and the impending feeling that my mind is about to leave this world for grander vistas, leaving my body behind for medical research.  

Fuck all that noise.  I’ma watch some Nikita instead.

I watched one episode.  Then two.  I wanted to stop, but I felt so drained and exhausted from having watched the first two, I didn’t have energy left to do anything but watch the 3rd and the 4th.  Then the 5th.

I shut the TV off and tried to do something – work on my play, clean my room, learn a survival skill, draw something, ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING – but my mind felt like it had been vacuumed.  I stumbled around in a daze, lay on the bed.  Then turned on the TV for episodes 6, 7, and 8.  But a curious thing happened.  I noticed that when I was watching TV, I wasn’t relaxed at all.  I was tense.  Whenever I would try to relax and breathe, I could feel in my body an urge to turn away from the TV, to look at something else.  I kept suppressing that urge, because what does my body know?  What ELSE is there to look at?  What’s more exciting than what I’m already looking at – secret agents killing bad guys!

That night I dreamt I was a member of the CIA, and one of my ex-flames was in my garage, trying to uncover a a cache of government secrets I’d hidden in the wall.  I burst into the garage, pointed my pistol at her, screaming, “FREEZE!”  She didn’t freeze though.  She pulled out a machine gun.  We exchanged fire.

When I woke up the next morning, I hunted down information on a book I’d heard of way back entitled “Four Arguments on Eliminating TV” by Jerry Mander.

From the Wikipedia entry on the book:

The four arguments are:

  1. While television may seem useful, interesting, and worthwhile, at the same time it further boxes people into a physical and mental condition appropriate for the emergence of autocratic control.

  2. It is inevitable that the present powers-that-be (or controllers) use and expand using television so that no other controllers are permitted.

  3. Television affects individual human bodies and minds in a manner which fit the purposes of the people who control the medium.

  4. Television has no democratic potential. The technology itself places absolute limits on what may pass through it. The medium, in effect, chooses its own content from a very narrow field of possibilities. The effect is to drastically confine all human understanding within a rigid channel.

Here’s a video (yes, irony is noted) about the physiological affects of television, and  references in part my urge to look away and bolt:

As far as how this relates to animism, imagination, and the interdependent nature of human consciousness…

From Scott London’s interview with Jerry Mander (gerrymander?):

Mander: Well, just as other creatures co-evolve with their environment, we are co-evolving with our technologies. In nature, creatures evolve by adjusting and reacting to other creatures. It used to be that way with human beings as well. But now we are co-evolving mainly with machines. Our compromise with them is that we start to become like them — we have to become a little like them in order to use them.

London: What do you mean?

Mander: I mean that if you’re going to play a video game, for example, the point is to speed up your hand-eye coordination. The better you get at the video game, the faster your hand-eye connection. What you are doing with your hands and eyes is involving yourself in the computer program. So you are creating a cycle of actions and reactions with the computer technology. As your awareness and your nervous system become tuned to the computer, you are changed accordingly.

This is true of any technology. Look at television, for example. To watch television is to take in images that are artificially created for a specific purpose. By carrying these images, you begin to turn into them. That’s basic to education and to all experience: as you ingest your environment you begin to evolve with it. In the case of television, you are evolving on the basis of carefully selected and programmed images, so you are getting acted on in a very aggressive manner. Television turns you into its own images. It rearranges your mind.

What about the Internet, though?  Hasn’t the Internet successfully decentralized electronic media?

Mander: Well, that is another example of failing to take a systemic viewpoint. People may edit their copy, communicate with their friends, connect with other like-minded people, and so on. But the computer doesn’t change the fact that great centralized institutions — corporations, trade bureaucracies, militaries, governments and so on — are able to use those same computers with far greater connections and with far greater real power. So the Internet will not stop a forest from being cut down or global money speculation from affecting the fates of whole societies. These technologies have to be viewed in all their dimensions.

If computers enable you to do your work a little better, I don’t argue with that. But it’s an illusion for us to believe that our use of the computer will somehow change the centralized system of power. For those who would like to see equitable and sustainable systems develop, the use of the computer amounts to a net loss, not a net gain.

This part of the interview was the most heart-breaking for me:

Mander: I was invited by an organization called the Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories, an organization of Diné and Inuit women. The MacKenzie River Valley is where the Russian nuclear satellite came down some years ago. At the time, everybody was worried that it would fall on London or New York, but instead it fell on a so-called icy wasteland up in Canada. That’s the place where I was invited to go. It was 40 degrees below zero the day I arrived.

The MacKenzie River Valley has 22 communities of native people. They are spread over an enormous area. They still have a very successful traditional economy based on hunting and fishing and live in a communal manner in log houses.

I was invited up there because television had begun to arrive in the area. The Women’s Association was noticing startling changes in the communities where television had arrived. The men didn’t go out on the ice to fish as often. The animals weren’t being taken care of as well. The kids didn’t want to go out and play traditional games. The kids were starting to want things — like cars (even though there are no roads there). The neighbors weren’t hanging out together, working on the nets together, cooking together, eating together and so on. The community life was breaking down.

The most important thing, they told me, was the loss of story-telling (emphasis added). In the evenings, it used to be that the very old would gather with the very young in a corner of the house — several families together — and the old people would tell traditional stories and stories from their past. By hearing those stories, the young people could remember who they are, what’s good about their people, and how to live in that very harsh environment. The stories were a window to their roots. Also, the process of young and old hanging out together in that way was very important. There was a lot of love flowing back and forth and the kids were proud to be connected to their grandparents.

Apparently, all of this has been wiped out by television. Story-telling has come to an end. Now families sit together silently — all these generations together — and watch “Dallas,” a bunch of white people standing around a swimming pool drinking martinis and plotting against each other.

Human beings are genetically programmed to pay attention to anything that is new. It goes back to our time when we lived in jungles and had to depend on the information coming in through our senses. It’s part of our survival technique: we pay attention to anything new that takes place in our environment. But in this case it’s not an animal hiding behind a bush, it’s a whole technology speaking into our heads. It’s very hard to change ourselves genetically to keep up with the technological changes.

As human beings, we are supposed to believe what we see. Our system is constructed for seeing-is-believing. If we see birds flying south, we depend for survival on the fact that the birds are in fact flying south. But we’ve moved out of the forest and into the city and now we depend strictly on what is delivered to us as information. When we see images on television, we don’t know how not to believe them. Television is very powerful and compelling.

The day after I binged, I resolved to watch no TV the next day.  With the exception of some YouTube videos –  I tried to not watch them as much as just listen to them – I was able to stay away from the Grand Tube.  Definitely interesting to see how much anxiety I felt when I found myself too tired to do anymore work, started feeling an oncoming phase of self-reflection and meditation, and my urge was to just turn on the TV and allow myself to lulled by its hypnotic glare into a semi-catatonic state.

Instead I went outside, talked to the tree in the backyard, spoke to a rock (yep), prayed, meditated, played some Ravi Shankar while shaking my rattle, danced around my room.  Talked to the spirits.  Remembered the deep connection between consciousness and the breath.

Yeah.  Reality is still the best programming around.

I must create a system or be enslav’d by another man’s. I will not reason or compare: my business is to create.  – William Blake

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2 thoughts on “Resist TV

  1. The Revolution will not be binge watched! Wowie Zowie, excellent post! I heard someone say recently that Television Tells Lies To Your Vision. So much good food for thought packed into this post! If this was a show I’d watch it…..D’oh! I mean I would NOT watch it 😉
    Question: Do you think T.V. can be used wisely?
    Question: So humans love stories, even maybe NEED stories. But what will be able to compete with the quantity and accessibility of stories that T.V. and movies provide us? Is it just about discernment? About being able to separate those stories that will enrich our lives and teach us important things from the the Saw franchise?
    Question: Do you think radio (or just audio alone) allows more room for the imagination?
    Question: You know those people who make it a point to let you know that they don’t own a television? Well why has this lack of T.V. made them into such smug d-bags and not ultra enlightened beings instead?
    Question: Do you think a television can have an animated spirit like the rock you talked to?
    Question: Do you think Alex and Nikita’s relationship is damaged beyond repair?

    Like

    • “Do you think T.V. can be used wisely?”

      This is a good and tough question. I think it comes down to knowing what our values are and to what degree TV affirms, challenges, and undermines those values. In other words, cost-benefit analysis. I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, television can’t be used wisely. Not if you value democracy, freedom of thought, and a healthy body and planet. Granted, I’m fairly new to the research regarding the physiological, psychological and sociological impacts of TV, so please feel free to challenge me on this.

      The first thing I would challenge is the idea of TV being something that we “use”, like a garden rake. This implies we have complete and total control of the television watching experience, that we’re getting something from it, and that it’s not doing something to us in return. I think it’s more accurate to say that to watch TV is into enter into a series of relationships. We’re in relationship with the device itself, which affects us on a physiological level. And we’re in relationship with the television programmers – writers, producers, advertisers who design the programming – and they affect us on a psychological level.

      My current problem with these relationships is that they are overwhelmingly one-sided. Think of TV as a person in your house. You go to that person and you say, “Tell me a story.” And the person says, “Okay, but to do so, I’m going to need to put you into a semi-hypnotic trance, shut off all critical thinking in your brain, and put your mind into a state of extreme passivity and suggestibility. Then I’m going to show you a series of images. You will not be able to control the content of these images or the speed at which you see them. Furthermore, your brain will be unable to distinguish between these images and reality, and once you see them, you can’t UNsee them. They’ll be in your mind forever, floating around there with images of memories from your actual life. There’s no room for discussion. You can’t challenge me regarding what you see as you’re seeing it because (A) I won’t be able to hear your challenges anyway (B) the stream of images won’t stop as you’re challenging them, and you’ll miss what’s happening next.

      I think there are better ways to get our story fix.

      So humans love stories, even maybe NEED stories. But what will be able to compete with the quantity and accessibility of stories that T.V. and movies provide us? Is it just about discernment? About being able to separate those stories that will enrich our lives and teach us important things from the the Saw franchise?

      I agree that we need stories. I recently began to think of story-telling as the art of arranging archetypal symbols and images into a narrative that allows us to understand reality and the world around us. Whenever you allow yourself to be told a story, there’s a certain degree of trust and vulnerability you have to accept, because your mind allows itself to believe what it’s being told. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all; in fact, I think the experience of story-telling belongs in the realm of the sacred. And that’s why I think we need to think twice before allowing television programmers that much access to our minds. I grew up with a TV, so I’m used to the idea of stories being broadcast to me without any relationship with or access to the story-tellers. I think story-telling should be a two-way street, whether it’s call-and-response or using your own imagination to fill in the blanks when you’re reading the story.

      I don’t see the quantity and accessibility of TV and film stories as being a problem, because I think the written word is still just as accessible. Or better yet, we can write stories for each other. We don’t need a cadre of “specialists” to provide us with the stories that we need. We all have something meaningful and important to say about life, at the very least to OURSELVES. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

      For me, it comes down to imaginational laziness. Sometimes, I just don’t want to work that hard to get the stories that I need, even if it just means picking up a book. “You mean I gotta make all the pictures myself, in my head, with my MIND PARTS???”

      I do think there are alternatives to quitting TV cold turkey. I’ll also say that if you’re watching 4 hours of TV a day, you’re watching too much, because you’re literally killing yourself. (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/?_r=0). Maybe just an hour a day, or once a week? I also think we can be more selective about the programming we choose, and the more we can avoid advertisements, the better. I also think going to the movies is much better than TV, because there’s something about the movie-going experience – leaving your house, going to another location, dimmed lights – that feels more in the realm of the sacred.

      Question: Do you think radio (or just audio alone) allows more room for the imagination?

      Yep!

      Question: You know those people who make it a point to let you know that they don’t own a television? Well why has this lack of T.V. made them into such smug d-bags and not ultra enlightened beings instead?

      Unfortunately, smug d-bags have existed long before TV, so they won’t be going away anytime soon.

      Question: Do you think a television can have an animated spirit like the rock you talked to?

      Possibly, which raises a whole host of frightening theories about where our current techno-society is headed. http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tdet06.html

      Question: Do you think Alex and Nikita’s relationship is damaged beyond repair?

      I don’t think they can afford to hold grudges for too long. They’ve had to save each other’s lives way too many times.

      Like

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