Sunday, 15 June 2014
Life without a TV
I haven't had a TV since 2009 and even back then I didn't watch it much because it was so archaic it didn't even have a remote control (plus SABC isn't that interesting). But I haven't missed it. It's like a bad habit: really difficult to get over initially, but once you've forgotten about it, you don't miss it at all. Even if we happen to be somewhere that has a TV, I never really think to turn it on. I don't like the sound it makes and the way it fills the house with noise. I don't like the way it silences conversations and sucks hours out of people's days. I don't like the way living rooms are arranged around it as if it were royalty. I resent the way it can hold whole families captive. But most of all, I think I hate it because it stifles creativity.
I know this makes me sound like some kind of anti-television extremist. I'm not, I promise. I don't find TV particularly offensive and I don't even mind watching TV at someone else's house. I just don't want one in mine. I don't want the kid growing up in a house where we gather around a rectangular screen for a few hours everyday and regardless of intentions, I know this is what would happen if it were there, sitting in the lounge like some special guest.
A lot of people then ask, "but what do you do?" And that's exactly it. What would we all do if we didn't watch TV? At first we would experience a kind of impenetrable blankness, an emptiness to life, but then, pin-pricks of opportunity would begin to shine through. Creativity would kick in. We might write, read, blog, cook, talk, finish something, start something, play, think, create, connect. We would do life.
The problem with TV and its infinite choices of effortless entertainment is that it's hard to strike a balance (to the point where one might think it's designed to not let you). It's not like we don't watch anything in our house. There are DVDs and series. The kid gets to watch Mary Poppins and Disney movies and the Barbapapas in German. So there are those days where I come home exhausted and don't put up enough resistance because I have work to finish off, dinner to conjure up, emails to check, boring household tasks to complete; but what I have noticed is that the more frequently that happens, the whinier the kid gets. It's as if watching "TV" on a regular basis drains the creativity and power of invention out of her. We return to the question of "what to do" and the answer suddenly seems "nothing" and boredom and whining set in.
Then there can be weeks where she watches absolutely nothing and she entertains herself with imaginary games and drawing and busy rearranging of stuff to fit some exciting internal plan. She holds picnics and drives cars on imaginary roads, "reads" stories to her fluffy toys, collects things in the garden, invents her own hopscotch game, tries out puzzles, creates and cuts out and glues things down until everything around her is sticky and covered in tiny bits of paper. She comes and watches me going about those mundane, everyday tasks and asks "what you doing?" and wants to help.
Maybe my resolve won't last forever. I can accept that, but I do worry that if we invite TV in, those everyday moments of "doing life" will dissolve away before we've even noticed it.