Want to double your free time? Turn off the television. This isn’t a feel-good idea based on theory. I’ve seen it in action in my life.
My wife and I disagree on a few things. (Actually, we disagree on most things, but this is to be expected after thirty-plus years of marriage.) My wife likes to watch TV. A lot. I, on the other hand, feel that our single television is two too many.
In fairness, I admit to watching TV, mainly sports. Fortunately, I only follow two sports, football and auto racing. But even that limited agenda can eat up all my free time. A typical week in football season might include a Thursday night game, three Saturday games, three Sunday games and a Monday nighter. At an average of three hours per game, that’s a full twenty-four hours of drudgery.
Some of the most blissful days of my adult life were in graduate school when my TV broke and I couldn’t afford to fix it. I simply painted a new picture on the screen each week and got as much out of that programming as I do from anything broadcast today.
My wife, on the other hand, lives with the television on constantly. Non-stop reruns of NCIS; reality shows, the trashier the better; paranormal nonsense; multiple news casts (nothing but death, taxes and Republicans) and, of course, the Puppy Bowl.
So we have this running discussion in our home of how much television is too much. Actually we have me making catty comments under my breath and her telling me to shut up because she can’t hear what the Turtle Man is saying.
So I was very surprised recently when my wife started turning the television off in the evenings. She recently visited family for a week, leaving me to my own devices. I didn’t burn down the house and proudly admitted that the television wasn’t turned on once in the week she was gone. That comment seems to have struck home and she is now more willing to have the television off more often.
The two of us sit quietly in our respective chairs, her head buried in her control panel (cell phone and Kindle tablet, a laptop soon to be added) and me sitting there in wonder. In ecstasy, actually. Normally, I only get to enjoy this type of serenity when travelling on business and even then I am usually too stressed and exhausted to enjoy it.
I’ve made a new discovery. Instead of not having enough time for anything when the TV was on, now I have time on my hands. Television segments your life into half-hour or hour-long chunks, shuts down your brain and keeps you drugged until you collapse into bed, exhausted.
Without the artificial pace of television, you have time to rediscover the natural rhythms of your life. Watch the sun set, see how the shadows in the room change. Listen to sounds, hear the house settle into the evening. Remember the things that are important in your life and the things you’ve been meaning to do, like write more.
Slower times transport me back to childhood, when an afternoon nap on a cool bedcover under an open window with a fan droning nearby were all that was important in the whole wide universe.
This is life. Discover it again by escaping from, not just television, but from all that is banal and filling your life with emptiness.