Sound of music, sound of talking, sound of cards shuffling, sound of silence; these are a few of the sounds in our house these days. The missing sound? The drone of television. This new scene started about six months ago when we were on holidays for three weeks, during which time we didn’t watch one single movie.
It was pretty cool.
We’ve gone without cable television since 1995, and never did have satellite. Walking away from mainstream television was surprisingly easy, and saved us a bill each month, but we did still rent lots of movies and television shows. So although we weren’t watching television in one sense, we were certainly still watching the television set. Two people, eyes forward, tuned out of each other and into the screen, watching movie after movie after movie after movie. It seemed okay at the time, and we didn’t spend any time questioning the status quo.
Whenever we’ve been on holidays, though, we’ve always kept the TV turned off, and have much preferred it that way. And we could never figure out why we felt the need to go back to it when we returned home, but we always did. Then, for no known reason, we just didn’t get around to turning on the television again after our last summer holiday. It wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened that way, and stuck. That’s probably why it has worked so well, because if we had planned it, if we had decided that it was ‘good for us’ to do other things instead of watching movies, I think it would have been a setup for an epic fail.
The weeks passed without turning on the TV set, and finally, after about two months of it, we cancelled Netflix. After about four months, we unplugged the television from the power bar.
Neither of us miss it. Some of our most favourite television series, shows that we were really hooked on, ones that sent us into withdrawal mode between seasons, have since come out with their latest seasons on DVD, but the interest just isn’t there to rent them. I can’t even be bothered checking online to follow the story lines.
Now, instead of evenings spent on the sofa with supper and movie (yeah yeah, we were totally guilty of that), we now have a more leisurely supper at the table (I wondered what that table was for, and now I remember). We actually notice the food we’re eating and, more importantly, the craft beers we’re drinking. After supper we play Rummy or Backgammon or Chess while listening to music, or we opt for silence and read through the evening. Sometimes we just sit and talk. In summer, we go for bike rides. Sometimes we get all crazy and cover every option all in one evening, party animals that we are.
Here’s the thing: Evenings take a lot longer to ‘do’ now, which is unbelievably sweet, because before, evenings seemed to be over before they got started.
It has changed me, this new way of doing things. It has changed both of us. I feel more at peace now, and more in tune with things around me. I like sitting across from Jim and looking at him instead of staring ahead at the TV. I like being ‘present’ instead of lost in a movie. I still do get lost in a book, but that’s different. If you’re going to get lost, a book is a better place to wander than a movie.
The changes in us have made me wonder, does television affect our brains in some way? I am inclined to think so, because now when I watch even a short youtube video on my computer, I can feel myself zoning out. I never used to notice this zoning-out thing, but it’s real, and pretty strange, I can feel myself become . . . I don’t know, sort of passive. I think people really are affected when watching a video/movie/whatever, there is a dulling of the senses, a zoning-out.
Looking back, I’d say it sucked, spending all that time in front of the television. Sure we watched some good stuff along the way, but life is too short to spend so much time in passive-mode. Occasionally we’ve thought of having a movie night once a week, but we’re kind of afraid that it might just put us back into the old habits. And besides, that television set has not been turned on once in over six months. Who wants to break a record like that?
Is this the life for everybody? No, I can’t imagine so, but it might be fun to try it on for size. I haven’t found a downside yet, unless one counts the small fortune in purchased DVDs mouldering unwatched in the cabinet.