How much time do you spend each day not with a television, computer, radio, or phone? Probably not much, because if you haven’t noticed, electricity is everywhere.
I have always rejected the notion that reading is a superior form of entertainment to movies or television. Reading is certainly underrated and underdone, but there is something different about watching events unfold in your minds’ eye and literally watching them acted out with your eyes.
There is this story called Les Misérables. I am told the book is good. I saw the film and it is good.
But I saw it again live on stage, and it blew me away. Not so much because of the story, but of how underappreciated theater is. I have been to a few other live shows. You pay $50 to sit in the cheap seats. And they are fucking awesome. Every one of them.
These shows are incredibly entertaining to people like you and me from beginning to end. People give them well-deserved ten-minute standing ovations. When is the last time you saw a movie that would have justified that?
I find it difficult to imagine what an incredible experience shows like these must have been for people before television and YouTube. Before you could talk to someone in Bangladesh instantly. Before Subway and Ford were trying to bash your skull in with commercial after stupid commercial.
Before electricity—the vast majority of human existence—none of this 24/7 entertainment was an option. But in today’s world we have lost the realization that there are better ways to spend our time than sitting in front of a television. We also do not realize that the large majority of television shows are simply not worth our time. Sure they are good in comparison to each other, but bar is set so low it’s depressing.
I am not against movies or television, they benefit us in so many ways, but not if we cut out important stuff to sit on the couch and watch the tube for five hours a day. Our brains are so oversaturated by entertainment we are now on the continuum from rationality to zombie.
When you know that they are going to catch the bad guy in this episode of Law and Order, but you sit there and watch it anyway… that should scare the hell out of you. We do not want to stop though, because if we cut the shitty entertainment out we are left with a lot of time to do… something. And we don’t want that, because it might be… hard.
You can even cheat a little bit and go to Khan Academy. Learn something about biology. It might take a while and be difficult! But next week when you are at the gym, you will remember something cellular respiration. And that is time well spent.
It is by eliminating the constant presence of television, movies, and smartphones in our lives that we will actually learn to appreciate them. To realize how incredible these things really are and how much they can enhance our lives, rather than letting them waste the limited time we have.
Nobody on their deathbed ever said they wished they had watched another episode of Friends. Plenty have regretted not taking part in a real life version of it.