When it is scientifically clear that a patient has no chance of ever again functioning normally and is on life support for his existence, those who have loved him for a lifetime have a terrible choice to make. Do they continue to administer the support to keep him breathing, even though there is no brain function, or do they make the decision to let him go?
I never expected to be in the position to have to make that decision but that is exactly where I found myself. I gave the order yesterday to pull the plug on my Cable TV subscription at 11:37 a.m. PST. The patient was pronounced dead by the time I returned home a half hour later.
It might be difficult for those who are young and have grown up with hundreds of channels of television and enough remotes to control their viewing pleasure that would sink a small battleship that there was a time when there were only a few channels from which we could choose. And those broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC actually took a break and went off the air – allowing us to get our needed rest.
Although the choices we had were limited, the content of those programs was far superior and more entertaining than what we are offered today – at least in my opinion. And we enjoyed that experience together, as a family, watching those shows which my parents thought were appropriate for me to see.
Our old Dumont television was housed in a chinoise-style cabinet. Generally, the doors to the cabinet were shut, hiding from our eyes the small television that blankly stared with its blind eye until we turned on the power and waited a minute or so until the cathode ray tubes had heated up to the point they provided a black and white picture and monophonic sound.
For me, Grandma, not the television was the babysitter. And of course there were other things to entertain me like homework and books and my stamp collection. By the time I was twelve I had read through A – K of my Encyclopedia Britannica, still had time for extracurricular activities at school and was halfway through the collected works of Charles Dickens. I simply can’t imagine how I could have had the time to do all of that if I had been glued to our television from the moment I returned home from classes to the time I went to bed.
I remember coming home one day after one of my classmates had mentioned that his family had eaten their dinner on TV tables the previous evening. I didn’t know what a TV table was, so I asked Mom. Her response was, “That’s something that families who don’t have anything to say to one another use to avoid having a conversation.” I admit that at the time that comment was a little over my head, but I got the point later in my life. All I knew was that we didn’t have TV tables but we did have an evening meal together and we talked to each other.
In my mind, the Japanese concept of shibui certainly applies to television. Perhaps the best definition of this word that describes the joy of minimalist aesthetics is, “less is more.” And you can’t have less than none which is where I have now found myself in my television viewing experience.
I won’t miss episodes of stories about suburban housewives, the latest designs in tattoos, reality television in which the most pathetic examples of humanity parade themselves for all the world to emulate or 99% of the rest of the stuff that is broadcast to an unthinking public who considers the drivel that is offered as a good way to improve their minds. Since I never watched that sort of thing when I was connected, I guess the producers of those shows would consider me as one of the unbaptized, unclean and uninformed. So be it.
The way I look at it, the money I’m going to save over the next year both on television and the consequent reduction in my electric bill will allow me to purchase about fifty new titles to add to my classic movie collection. Although I long ago finished Dickens, I haven’t re-read Dostoevsky for many years and I allowed my Encyclopedia Britannica project to lapse when I had only just started on the letter “T” – so there’s a project.
It was difficult for me to make the decision to pull the plug on an old friend. But only one day into my new television-less brave new world I realize – it had to be done.