The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Praise of Television, Part I

A dear friend of mine has been duelling with me over the subject of television. I’d like to present my case and defend my honour. My intellectual integrity has been besmirched. En garde!

I enjoy television. I watch a lot of it (a rough estimate would be about 65,000 hours over my lifetime, or just over 7 whole years!). I’ve heard all the arguments against television, that it “brainwashes” you, that it distorts your worldview, that it damages your brain and your intellect, that it robs you of a life well-lived. Well, for all the countless hours that I’ve spent in front of the “boob toob,” it doesn’t seem to have ruined my life. I’ve had a successful career as a software programmer, I’ve amassed a tidy retirement nest egg, I am a happy bachelor, I am surrounded by good friends, I enjoy writing and debating and blogging and generally exercising my “damaged intellect.”

Is my life perfect? No. Show me a perfect life so that I can feel envious.

I’ve had my ups and downs but no one can deny that, on the whole, I’ve had a pretty damn good life! So what is everyone going on about with my television “addiction?”

Belief Systems
I’ve been told that the time I spend watching TV can be better utilized in other ways. I’m sure that’s true, but what does “better” mean? Should I be reading more? Should I be raising a family? Should I travel? Should I do volunteer work?

Every individual has his own idea or beliefs about how to live life. There is no one “correct” way. There is no judgment that can be made about one way being “better” than another. Who’s to say that my lifestyle is less deserving of respect than someone else’s? Exactly how should I live my life? What it all comes down to is a difference in belief systems.

Conflicting belief systems can be a really nasty thing. They lead to wars, both religious and political. They sever human relationships. And they are seldom resolvable because most beliefs are not backed by logic or reason.

“Lifestyle” is one of those belief systems for which there can be no satisfactory explanation. You live according to how you feel and what you believe and that’s that. People who criticize a particular lifestyle are terribly judgmental and this is a direct consequence of holding on too tightly to their belief systems.

Television Widows
My dear friend asked me, What if I find a woman who is unable to live with my television “lifestyle?” The answer is very simple: that woman is not right for me. The “right” woman is the one who can accept my lifestyle without question. I’ve been told that such a woman does not exist. I beg to differ. Can anyone tell me with a straight face that out of 3 billion women on this planet, I can’t find ONE who would be happy to live with my television lifestyle?

In actuality, the issue is not really about television. It’s about time allocation. How much time do you allocate to the various activities and priorities in your life? Do you make time for precious relationships – with your spouse and your children, with your friends and loved ones? And just as importantly, do you make enough time? This last question is tricky. What is “enough?”

This is a common problem with marriages today. It’s not only about television but about ANY activity that takes away too much time from a marital relationship...

Sports Widows
Sports is a classic example. Around the world, millions of men are wedded to their favourite sports such as football, baseball, hockey, etc. Their wives are constantly complaining about the time they spend watching these sports (and sometimes playing – golf comes to mind). How is this different from my television lifestyle?

It is also very common for men (and women) to be so involved in their jobs or careers that they make very little time for relationships. Naked ambition is the culprit here. They are so invested in their occupational identity that they cannot separate their lives from their livelihood. At least I don’t suffer from this ailment.

The fact is, I don’t watch television to the exclusion of all else in my life. I’ve had many other interests and activities and I’ve tried many things such as aikido, chess, writing, karate, bicycling, piano, skiing, running, rock climbing, cooking, reading, archery, swimming, traveling, psychotherapy. Yes, I’ve lived a very sheltered existence!

Damaged Intellect
Has watching too much TV dulled my intellect? It doesn’t seem so. I feel more creative and more intellectually combative than at any other time of my life. I will match my intellect against anyone and debate them to the floor.

My years of blogging have sharpened my communication and analytical skills. I’ve won my fair share of online debates. Mentally, I am in a very good place.

Has my life been ruined by television? You tell me...

I am happy.

My mind is sharp.

I am in good physical condition.

I look forward to the next twenty years of my life.

Today my worldview is well-balanced. I see life with great clarity. I am brimming with hope and excitement. Do I need to bemoan my poor existence?

So please excuse me while I return to my favourite television show...


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