The Illusion of Enlightenment & the Boob Tube



My father used to call our television the Boob Tube.  I don’t know where that name comes from, but I always thought he meant if we watched too much we’d turn into “boobs” ie.stupid.

Now that I think about it Boob Tube a horrible name in a house full of women.

He never really said outright that the TV was bad, but we were only allowed to watch four hours a week growing up—yes, that was four hours in a week. Of course we started life in Papua New Guinea with no television at all.  Since I grew up not really understanding what a television was, my first encounter which happened on furlough, was with a small box that showed us the show Sesame Street.

In the early 70s, before remotes, Dad made us one.

It connected to the television with a wire, so technically it was not a remote.  It was basically just a switch to turn off the sound during the commercials.  After all of that sincere effort he was really miffed when my little sister Holly could sing the tunes to the commercials even without sound!  We laughed along with my parents, but really didn’t like it when he turned off the commercials.

I never intended to own a television when I grew up.

Don’t you think it is just what you do?  In the years that Tom and I have been together our lives have been a progression of buying bigger and bigger televisions which then forces us to move rooms around, over and over again, in a desire to create a TV room and the other “peaceful room where we will read, or talk, or listen to music, or make music.”

We’ve called it the Reading Room and the Music Room, but eventually that room, the one without the television, has become a dusty shrine to our lofty ideals and to the illusion of our enlightenment.

We actually spend all of our waking hours in the TV room, other than those spent cooking and sleeping.

Because of this, many times I get pulled into television shows without any willful consideration of their merit.  My youngest likes to watch the show Wipeout (quite possibly the most inane television show I think I have ever seen and yet oddly compelling to my son.)  What comes right after it is a show called Expedition Impossible that immediately drew me in.  I’ve watched it now for three weeks, too lazy to pick up the remote and turn it off.  But this week on Thursday night I have to admit I found myself actually watching the clock for it to start and rushing through washing the dinner dishes, because I’m hooked!

I’m drawn to people being pushed beyond what they believe is their physical, mental and emotional ability.

In this show, a dozen teams of three must work together on mental and physical challenges, with the final team making a bunch of money.    The reason I mention this is that although I am drawn to these sort of things and I am the person who would embrace something like that, in everyday life I’m a wus, a scaredy-cat, afraid of my shadow; these days I feel like a weak and ineffectual person.

Cliff jumping in S. Korea
Image by bzo via Flickr

One of the teams on the show has a team member who is blind.  Yes, blind.  I watched him jump from cliff this week, forty feet down into a river.  He had to trust that his friend would find him, after he comes up.  It is no wonder they called the episode Leap of Faith.   I was blown away!

And beyond what that says about his bravery and trust, I was impressed just by the jump.  I’ve jumped off cliffs like that on a boat trip to Dale Hollow, in Kentucky, and it’s friggin scary.  Some of the men were jumping off these cliffs.  Now, I know intellectually that I am capable of doing anything I want; I just have to overcome the fear. The only reason I did the jump was that there were no other women jumping and I’d been egging on, for fun, this friend who was referring constantly to the “girls” at the office—challenging his calling grown women older than him, girls. And so “for women” I found myself at the edge of a cliff looking down.  I took a leap and jumped.  And then I did again, just to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke.  I did have the courage.  It was horrible and frightening and amazing!

If I am capable of doing that why am I so afraid today?

As I sat and thought about what it must take for Erik Weihenmayer, the man who is blind, to do this trek in Morocco, I am blown away by his courage and inner will and utterly ashamed by my apathy and fear of failure, and unwillingness to take risks.  And so I have been thinking all week about why I am so afraid.  And why is he so brave?  He could have let his disability keep him from many things (including this show!) and yet he hasn’t.  I ask you to consider this question:

If you knew you could not fail what would you do?

And, back to the original idea that the television is a bad influence on us, I would assert that it is the single worst “idol” in our culture that I wish I had the courage to give up.

One thought on “The Illusion of Enlightenment & the Boob Tube

Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

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