Simplification

December 11, 2006

I love watching movies, and I’m not picky. I’ll watch pretty much anything that’s not too violent or scary. I’m especially fond of heist flicks, romantic comedies, character dramas, and anything my wife will deign to watch. You’d guess that with this love of movies, I’d have seen a ton of them. But that’s not true. I’m woefully behind in my movie-watching–I haven’t seen hardly any of the big classics and get to the theater only two or three times a year.

When we were getting ready for bed last night, Alex asked me why I haven’t seen many movies. We wondered about this question together for a bit, and came up with some solid reasons. First, I grew up in backwoods Arkansas with no cable and no VCR. We got PBS most of the time and some scratchy NBC now and then. When I was fifteen or so, we finally joined the rest of American civilization and bought a VCR. But we still lived 30 miles from the video rental place, so it wasn’t like we were watching movies every day. Then, in college, I never managed to get a television at all, plus I spent some time (two years) in Argentina where they have movies, but I didn’t see many of them.

In seminary, I made it a year and half with out television, then I started dating Alex. She still claims that I was only interested in her for her TV set. It is true that I made up for lost time watching her little TV. Back then, they were playing back-to-back Simpsons reruns, and I think I burned the entire series into my retinas. There’s been no turning back. Now, married, we have two televisions, a DVD player, a broken VCR, and–get this–a Tivo. The Tivo has me in movies up to my eyeballs.

television

Keeping this context in mind, in my Advent devotions, the old theme of “simplification” came up. In these preparatory seasons of the year like Advent and Lent, we’re supposed to be preparing ourselves, waiting hopefully, and simplifying. We try to identify distractions in our lives that could be cleared away. There’s a whole cottage publishing industry out there trying to convince us that it is spiritually enriching to cut down. With my history of no TV watching, my knee-jerk reaction to admonitions to simplify normally is that I should watch less TV. I’m always reading studies that TV makes your brain rot, that it makes your kids into psychosocial misfits, that it incites consumerist frenzies, that it comes from the devil. So, why not watch less? It certainly is unnecessary, i.e., it could be cleared away.

Well, I’m not going to do it. At this moment in my emotional, political, and familial life, it would not be simple at all to turn the television off. My kids like to watch cartoons, and I like the moments of peace that their telelvision-induced zombification produces. I like movies, and my brain is tired both from my studies and my not infrequent bouts of depression. My profession as a student/pastor means that I spend my days reading and writing. All day long, I read, I talk about what I read, I write, and I talk about what I write. Then people pay me for this. I don’t need to put down the remote. I need to put down my book. I need to rest, with a good (or bad) movie. That sounds simple right now. Maybe the second coming will be televised. One can only hope.

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5 Responses to “Simplification”

  1. Alex Says:

    More tv! Tom & Lily will be thrilled!

  2. Evonne Says:

    I think watching old movies and new movies is the best way to relax, unwind, and just shut your mind down from everyday overload. So I say watch on. It really could be good for your mind. It is the people that sit there hour after hour and don’t have a life that need the help. I’m with you and think we should sit down and talk over some of the good movies. Love ya, Vonner

  3. Matt Says:

    Oh, I hope the second coming will be televised, but can I TiVo it? I might be busy that day.

  4. sheepdays Says:

    With all this encouragement, I’m gonna stay glued to the tube. Thanks!

  5. Alex Says:

    He’s watching “American Graffiti” right now… trying to catch up with pop culture circa 1973. 🙂

    BTW, don’t you think Brett looks like Richard Dreyfuss (sp?) in that movie?


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