, Part 4

Well, I broke down. It’s been about two or three weeks in the making, but today it officially happened: I got a cable box.

It’s a shame, really; I was doing so well without it. But my love for college basketball overcame my dedication, my purpose for shunning the zombie maker.

I planned to outline the sordid and frustrating process I went through just to get a simple, basic, fucking digital cable box, but I’m not in the mood. Long story short: it cost $10, only my roommate could pick one up from the store, he was too lazy to do it, weeks and weeks passed, Time Warner Cable is worthless, yada yada yada, and today I came home early from work to be here for the cable guy and mysteriously found the box in my room when I arrived.

College basketball at my fingertips…finally! Of course there’s also Nat Geo, Discovery, and PBS. Good, quality television.

Anyway, even though I now have cable I’m unsure how much I will use it. Unlike at my old apartment, where I was able to see the screen when I wrote, my new room is arranged so I’m always facing away from the TV when I’m at my computer. Of course, I could untether my MacBook from its power adapter and swing around in my vintage 1988 office chair (which was free from UCI Surplus). I could sit on my bed as I am now — my legs up and my back against the wall — but that position, if held too long, throws my spine out of whack. Who knows how much I’ll watch? I have the TV off right now, just after getting it, so that may be an indicator.

It’s easy to see all I accomplished while cable-less. It truly did me a lot of good, as I knew it would. Since returning from Iowa just a little over a month ago, I’ve read five books, written a few blog posts that were not beer or book related, and started an essay I had had in my head since October (it’s now swelled to over 6,000 words). I’ve successfully pulled myself out of the creative doldrums that affected me all last fall — a big accomplishment if you ask me. Even though we need breaks now and again, writers should write, read, and generally immerse themselves in words and worldly research, not watch TV.

My two-month respite from the endless stream of credit check, car, and get-rich-quick scheme commercials once again confirmed that TV is a luxury, not a necessity. Food, water, clothes, shelter — those are essential. Clothes, we can argue, are sometimes negligible, but survival becomes difficult without nourishment and a refuge from nature’s wrath. For the past week my parents have seemed more upset over the frustrating delays I’ve had in acquiring the box that now sits on my hand-me-down Sony Trinitron. I was calm and understanding when the cable guy didn’t show up last Tuesday, when the TWC store didn’t have any more regular boxes available. But my parents were pissed, and I had to remind them it wasn’t a life or death matter. In the grand scheme of things it was not a big deal.

One of the words I learned from reading Kathleen Norris’ Dakota was “ascetic,” which means “characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.” I suppose my cable-less life was a form of asceticism, and I think my feelings toward it are best summarized by Norris in one her book’s earliest chapters:

I had stumbled onto a basic truth of asceticism: that it is not necessarily a denigration of the body, though it has often been misapplied for that purpose. Rather, it is a way of surrendering to reduced circumstances in a manner that enhances the whole person. It is a radical way of knowing exactly who, what, and where you are, in defiance of those powerful forces in society — alcohol, drugs, television, shopping malls, motels — that aim to make us forget.

TV makes us forget about the important things in life. We become more involved in the continuing sagas of network dramas than we do the lives and wellbeing of our family, friends, and neighbors; we pass up the vital community service our ancestors used to keep connected, informed, and active in order to stay at home, sit on the couch, and watch our favorite shows. Granted, I could have gotten a lot more involved myself, which I still can, but my creative production is a testament to the benefits of turning off the boob tube.

Oh, Erin Andrews. How I missed you.


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