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.