Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why I Don't Own A Television

I've just recently moved to Ohio for graduate school (which explains my recent blogging silence), and while I'm loving a great many things about my new life as a graduate student, today I am particularly enjoying one the smaller pleasures: I no longer own a television. Why? Josef Pieper says it nicely:

There does exist something like "visual noise," which just like the acoustical counterpart, makes clear perception impossible. One might presume that TV watchers, tabloid readers, and movie goers exercise and sharpen their eyes. But the opposite is true. The ancient sages knew exactly why they called the "concupiscence of the eyes" a "destroyer." The restoration of man's inner eyes can hardly be expected in this day and age—unless first of all, one were willing and determined simply to exclude from one's realm of life all those inane and contrived but titillating illusions incessantly generated by the entertainment industry.

It's simple: I want to ask fundamental questions about reality and human experience and that becomes more difficult in proportion to the amount of trivial noise I allow into my life, and there is quite possibly no greater source of trivial noise in twenty first century life than the television. There are few activities which breed so much passivity, both of body and intellect, as watching television.

The last couple of weeks I have occasionally noticed the urge just to sit down on the couch and watch tv. Not having the TV there has led me to alternatives. Most often, this has caused me to listen to music. Just listen. Often I listen to music while doing other things. But lately, more than ever, I've just sat and listened. In doing so I've been hearing, really hearing, things hearing things I'd somehow failed to notice before: phrases I've heard dozens of times before take on new meanings; an instrument I'd never noticed in the mix; a harmony to which I'd never really given much attention; a subtle metaphor I'd overlooked until now. All this because tossing out the mindless pleasures of television has left me with the time for more substantial pleasures.

Is television inherently evil? Of course not. Will it dull the vision of your soul? Probably. Will it distract you from more worthwhile pursuits? Almost certainly.


  1. Ha! I'm in just the opposite situation. Starting graduate school, but having a TV (and cable) for the first time in five years or so. I should be careful of these things you mention!

  2. Similar to Tristan, I, too, am in the opposite situation. I actually just purchased a TV because I'm trying not to work all the time. :-) Working as a writer tends to mean I spend a lot of time in my own head. Thus,more reading, writing and listening in my "off-time" means more working. So I'm trying to occasionally spend time not working...by watching TV now and then. :-)

  3. Well spoken. There is something that happens to our vision, both physical and spiritual/intellectual, when we let something/someone else do all of the thinking and projecting for us.

    I say good riddance. Now, to the computer....


  4. Sir, may i add this to my blog roll?

  5. Tristan:
    Good luck!

    The fun thing about the sort of ethical theory I advocate (as my next post will explain, whenever I can get out of under a mountain of school work), is that I can both insist that it is morally good and important for me to not have a tv and acknowledge that it's ok, perhaps even good for you to have and use one. In fact, now that I think about it, I'll probably use your comment as a starting point for that post, as it illustrates well a point I want to emphasize.

    Matt: Haha. Yeah, the computer is a whole other post. What an incredible resource and a terrible pit of worthless junk the internet is!

    Anon: Of course!