The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘mental health’

EBOLA AND MENTAL HEALTH

After my mother’s death, my Aunt Helene readily inserted herself as a surrogate.  I had always been very close to Mom’s younger sister and I welcomed her nurturing and support at both that difficult time and for many years afterward.  I never failed to call her weekly and always sent her a wonderful birthday present.  On her 70th birthday I hosted a party for her, her three children and their spouses at The Four Seasons for dinner – although I had to specify that they gave the guests menus without prices on them – as she would have gone into cardiac arrest if she saw the cost of the meal and would have opted for bread and a glass of water.  She was a very practical lady.

There was a one year period when I was a child when my aunt disappeared from the scene.  It’s as though she had been abducted by aliens and transported to a distant planetary system.  In fact, although my parents never told me what happened and I learned the truth many years later, she had been consigned and confined to Bellevue Hospital to be treated for what was diagnosed as schizophrenia.  This was in the late 1950’s.

The “modern medicine” of that day frequently addressed this psychological illness with what today we may consider to be a rather primitive treatment.  It  was known as “shock therapy.”  If you saw the first “Lethal Weapon” Mel Gibson movie, you may remember the scene where he is suspended by his hands from the ceiling and water is poured over him as his interrogator hits him with electrodes to force him to talk.  That’s “shock therapy.”  It’s apparently extremely painful.

Well, the medical practitioners at Bellevue pronounced my aunt “cured” after she had been confined there for a year and undergone that treatment twice a week during her interment.  She returned home to her family, but I could see that she had gotten much more docile, measuring every word and making sure never to offend anyone.  She had always been a very gentle person but her gentility had transmuted to an almost submissive meekness.  It was many years before she rediscovered some of her previous élan.  And discussing that one year was so painful that no one in the family dared speak of it or ask for details – until many years later when my aunt felt comfortable discussing it and brought it up herself.

Four years went by and Aunt Helene began experiencing the same symptoms she had exhibited before her commitment.  Many years later she confided in me that she would have committed suicide rather than repeat her “therapy” at Bellevue, which incidentally, was known as one of the premier psychiatric hospitals in the country.  Fortunately, she had found an osteopathic doctor and had been seeing him for several years.  She described her current symptoms and told him about her stint at Bellevue.  He told her that he had a theory but he would need to request her medical records from the hospital before he could confirm his belief.  While waiting for those records he ordered some blood work done so that he would have those results when he received her transcript from Bellevue.

Two weeks later he called my aunt with news – some bad, some good.  “Helene, you do have a medical condition – that’s the bad news.  The good news is it isn’t schizophrenia – it’s hypoglycemia.  You have low blood sugar, the reverse of diabetes.  And hypoglycemia manifests itself in many symptomatic ways that may look like schizophrenia.  We need to raise your blood sugar level which we probably can accomplish through diet – and you should be just fine.”  My aunt told me that when she hung up from that call she felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders.  And she dealt with her condition through dietary management until her death at the age of 85.  I still miss her as she was a wonderful lady.

The blood work that Dr. Castin had received from Bellevue Hospital showed the same low blood sugar levels five years earlier.  But none of the physicians there caught it.  So my aunt went through nearly one hundred unnecessary shock treatments which left deep psychological scars.  Well, we all know the old joke that if you’re on the operating table the one thing you don’t want to hear your surgeon say as you float off under the anesthesia is, “Oops.”

Ebola is a potentially fatal disease – the mortality rates ranging between 50 – 70% according to the World Health Organization.  Mostly it has been confined to large areas of west Africa.  Probably those mortality rates would be lower in countries with more advanced infrastructure and medical systems.  Both the flu and traffic accidents kills more people in the United States than have fallen to Ebola in Africa.

As much as man would like to think he is in complete control of his own destiny, what we used to refer to as Mother Nature has a vote in the conversation – and she sometimes holds a very strong hand.  We have seen devastating plagues afflict human populations several times in recent and past history.  And while it is probably true that we are better equipped today than in the Middle Ages when bubonic plague ravaged Europe, it would be pure hubris to believe that we are so wise and so well prepared that we are impervious to a potentially ruinous outbreak of something the old gal has cooked up for us.  Admitting that would be to take the first step toward truly preparing for the potential of just such an outbreak.  And therein lies the problem.

Repeatedly since the first Ebola victim came to America from Liberia and subsequently died in Dallas, we have been told that any “large scale” outbreak of the virus is unlikely.  While that sounds reassuring, I for one would like to know the definition of “large scale.”  Is that one hundred patients; one thousand or one million?  That would seem a germane question since we have now been informed by the CDC that we have five hospitals which are prepared to handle just such an outbreak should it occur.  What the CDC has neglected to tell us is that between all five of those hospitals, spread throughout the country, there are a total of eleven beds to accommodate those who might come to them with the infection.

The CDC and its head, Dr.Tom Frieden have not exactly been reassuring in the way in which they have handled the situation thus far.  Nurses’ union leaders are complaining that they not only have not been instructed in the protocols that should be implemented to insure their safety and the proper treatment of the patients entrusted to them, but that they do not have the appropriate equipment nor instruction in how to use it.  That is a bit chilling.

The president assured us that there was no chance that Ebola would make its way to the United States.  As of this writing, we now have four such cases, the latest being a returning doctor who is with Doctors Without Borders and lives in our most populous city, New York.  He is currently quarantined in Bellevue Hospital.

This evening, from that hospital, the mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio and NY governor, Andrew Cuomo together with the physicians who head NYC’s and the state’s health services appeared together at a news conference to update and reassure the public about the most recent Ebola patient and any potential threats to the health of New Yorkers because of the exposure he may have had to others.  I was impressed with several things at that press gathering.

First, in the finest tradition of the White House, the scheduled press conference began late.  In fact it started nearly forty minutes late.  Simple common sense would suggest that if you’re dealing with a restive public who are concerned about a situation, delaying a scheduled press briefing is not the way to instill confidence.

Second, I was struck by the almost robotic monotone in which the public was updated on the latest Ebola patient by both the mayor, the governor and the female doctor who heads NYC’s health department.  I will give credit to the state’s chief physician.  He appeared definitely to have a pulse and seemed to engage actively and with interest in the topic at hand.  I don’t expect a Periclean speech from either our elected officials and certainly not from appointed bureaucrats, but a little bit of emotion would convey a sense of actual interest.

Third, we are asked to rely on our government’s public health officials and agencies to keep us safe from harm.  One of those on a Federal level would be Sylvia Burwell, the head of Health and Human Services.  You’ll remember that agency which formerly was headed by Kathleen Sibelius who brought us the Obamacare website roll out.  In his remarks, Governor Cuomo, never a candidate for a MENSA application, referred to Ms. Burwell as the head of Homeland Security – a post currently occupied by Jeh Johnson.  Forgive me but I’m not instilled with the warm glow of security when those who are supposed to be in charge don’t know where those with whom they may need to coordinate actually work.

If we accept, perhaps with a grain of salt, that Ebola is fortunately a hard virus to transmit from one person to another, that may give us some comfort.  But what is disturbing is the response from those within Federal agencies which seem at best, confused and unprepared.  That is not unlike this administration’s response to a host of other issues which have surfaced in the last six years.

There are threats which nature provides and which man has created.  The two terrorist attacks which have occurred in Canada, I use the term terrorists because Canada’s PM has done so being unafraid to call it as he sees it, are truly disturbing, especially in this context.  We have seen recent purported uses of mustard gas in Syria.  After 9/11 we had a mini crisis as we worried about the dissemination of anthrax.  And terrorists in Japan have used sarin gas to advance their agendas.

In view of the savage brutality of the Islamic extremists (terrorists), it is not beyond the realm of possibility to believe that if they view their mission as destroying the infidel by any means possible they would eagerly resort to the dissemination of chemical weapons within major U. S. or other western population centers without regard to the niceties of international conventions to the contrary.

I hope that our officials are correct and that any outbreak of Ebola in the U. S. will be limited in nature and that we may assist in eradicating it in west Africa.  But based on the response we’ve seen to date, to put all one’s faith in that outcome might cause a trained medical professional to question the state of our mental health.

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THE LIGHT BULB AND THE PSYCHIATRIST

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Only one.  But the light bulb really has to want to change.”

We’ve had a long history of joke telling as a people.  That’s probably a good thing.  “The Reader’s Digest” used to have a regular column entitled, “Laughter – The Best Medicine.”  I don’t know if they still carry that.  In fact, I don’t know whether that magazine is still in publication as I haven’t seen a copy for forty years or more.

At one time I thought that jokes originated in our prison system.  After all, our inmates probably needed a break from making license plates.  It always amazed me how a particular subject for jokes suddenly exploded into our repertoire, whether those were elephant jokes, wife and husband jokes or light bulb jokes, to name only a few.

I remember as a kid going to Barnes & Noble, looking at their closeout section and seeing a book entitled, “Jokes For The John.”  The book had a hole punched in the upper left corner and a chain ran through that so the buyer could attach it to his or her toilet paper roller and always have reading material while heeding nature’s call.  While I’ve never quite understood why so many people seem to think that the bathroom is merely an extension of a library reading room, I am clearly in the minority with that view.  Although I could make a case that an appropriate bit of literature to read there would be, “The Princess And The Pea.”

To return to our title, estimates suggest that about ten percent of us Americans are afflicted with some sort of mental health issue.  While that is a minority, it is as significant a minority as those who are estimated to have an LGBT orientation.  Those who are thus challenged can be found in all sectors of our society.  Mental illness knows no racial, ethnic or economic boundaries.  Nor does it have limitations to certain professions.

The recent coverage by the media of the death of a Google executive who was killed with a heroin overdose by a prostitute, described him as, “A happily married man with five children.”  Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think of “happily married people” as going out to enjoy extracurricular sexual activity with prostitutes or hustlers.  Unhappily married people, perhaps.

If we can agree that mental dysfunction exists across all occupations, including those who bring us the news, it is reasonable to believe that it exists among those who make the news.  Certainly there is ample evidence of that as our headlines regularly feature outrageous behavior exhibited by the rich and famous, sometimes narrating the tales of their self-inflicted deaths.  And if Hollywood celebrities and sports icons can be sucked up into this vortex, it seems only reasonable that a similar percentage of our politicians must similarly suffer.

In trying to understand or explain what I can only describe as President Obama’s aberrant behavior in dealing with his role as Chief Executive, it seems that positing a similar mental health issue is one reasonable explanation – perhaps the far more charitable one than an alternative, purposely trying to undermine the country which he was elected to steer toward a brighter future.

Speaker Boehner is apparently going to proceed with a lawsuit in an effort to hold on to the legislative authority which is specifically delegated to the Congress and which President Obama has successively and successfully attacked.  That suit will probably take years before it is heard and will most likely be moot as Obama will long be out of office before – or if – it is even heard.  But there is an alternative that the House might consider.  That is Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution which describes succession to the presidential office:

“In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office…”.

We expect a certain amount of hyperbole from our politicians.  Some of us realize that overpromising and under-delivering is how they appeal to the electorate and get themselves installed in office.  But the overpromises which candidate and then first term President Obama have unleashed exceed the bounds of reasonableness and move into the territory of the pathological.  Perhaps that is why two thirds of the public believe that he either “Sometimes” or “Regularly” lies, knowing that his statements are pure fabrications.

While I am not a mental health worker, I am able to recognize when a person has a consistent pattern of deception and telling falsehoods.  Those people would be well served to seek professional help for their condition.  But we can cope with those whom we encounter who suffer from this affliction – if by no other means than by avoiding having any interactions with them – at least until they take the steps necessary to try to overcome their condition.  At least that is true in most cases.  But when the afflicted party holds a high office – the highest office in the world – that then is a different matter.

During his election campaigns, our media characterized the president to be a “Bright and shining light.”  But that light has not lived up to its promised output and has grown dim.  It is, perhaps, for the world’s sake, time to change the bulb – irrespective of whether or not it wants to be changed.

“THE FOLKS”

In the last post I spoke about the latest new catch phrase, “the law of the land” which those who support the ACA use in reference to justifying Obamacare.  But there is a second term which I find equally annoying and which is frequently employed both by the President and by some on the right, notably Bill O’Reilly of FOX News and literary fame.  That phrase is “The Folks.”

Personally, I find this term rather disparaging – no matter who the speaker.  To me it is condescending, as though the President and Mr. O’Reilly are both sitting on their lofty perches, looking down on those who are, in their perception, beneath them, the “little people.”

Well, “the folks” are getting a little taste of “the law of the land.”  The Heritage Foundation has released their analysis of how health insurance rates, on average, will be affected as a result of Obamacare.  The following link will take you to their study – which shows an increase in 45 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/10/enrollment-in-obamacare-exchanges-how-will-your-health-insurance-fare

The Heritage Foundation in this study, which makes certain assumptions which may or not prove to be completely valid, simply examines the cost of currently available insurance versus what will be available on the insurance exchanges.  It is unclear whether this study incorporates the generally higher deductibles which most insurers are building into the new policies.

This, however, is merely the first issue, albeit probably the most surprising one, which “the folks” will deal with come next year.

It is hard to argue that Obamacare is anything but an “ambitious program.”  And it shouldn’t surprise any of us that despite having more than three years to build a website, the one that HHS commissioned is flawed, perhaps fatally so.  We are now into week three of the “rollout” and even supporters of Obamacare are being forced to admit that there are “glitches” which some are even willing to admit are “serious problems.”

Beyond the problems of simply enrolling people in Obamacare, and if you review the increases which the majority of healthy, younger people will face in order to support those who are older and more sickly, it seems unreasonable that the underlying financial assumption that getting the young to enroll and pay more than they actuarially should in order to subsidize those with serious health and pre-existing conditions, will be realized.  That is simply a statement related to the economics of this program.

But that may be the least important reason for a person choosing not to enroll in Obamacare.

One of the much touted benefits which purportedly makes Obamacare “affordable” is the fact that some taxpayers will be eligible for subsidies.  However, the system is currently unable to compute what those subsidies will be.  Therefore, no one who enrolls can be certain what his or her net premium cost actually will be.  That, of course, provides a further dis-incentive for signing on the dotted internet line.

But let us “folks” step back from the problems in getting an effective website up and running, despite the government’s spending hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars to implement it, and look at the broader picture.

When I flew frequently, I remember reading an article in one of the In Flight magazines that there were certain things about an airplane which caused consternation among passengers.  One of those was getting on a flight and noticing that the ashtray in your seat’s armrest was filled with cigarette butts.  Passengers tended to ask themselves, “If they can’t clean the ashtrays, how well does the airline maintain the plane itself?”

That same line of thinking can reasonably be applied to Obamacare.  If it is essential for the success of the program that young people sign up but have commissioned a website, the primary vehicle to achieve that end, that is apparently incapable of achieving that goal, then what would a reasonable person expect from the far more important issue of taking care of “the folks’” health – and at what price?

If a person bought into the value of Obamacare as it was sold by the President and his supporters based on how it was originally presented, they must, if they are honest, be greatly disappointed in the product which we are now being required to purchase.  Of the original promises made by Obama, the only one which appears to be accurate is that those with pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain coverage.  And that is a good provision.

But the promise that “the folks” would on average see a decrease of $2,500 per year in the cost of insurance, apparently not the case for most; that people would be able to keep their present insurance if they liked it, apparently not the case for many; that people would be able to keep their health care provider, apparently not the case for many more.

A reasonable person would ask himself or herself, with this sort of a track record at its launch, what can we expect if Obamacare gets fully implemented?  But before you come to a conclusion there is yet more bad news.  Embedded into the source code is a disclaimer that “the government is not responsible for the security of any information which is posted by the user on the site.”  According to interviews I heard with five different IT professionals, the way this site was designed provides an open invitation to hackers to access our most important health and financial information.

Recently, I read that an astounding one out of four of us currently suffers from some form of mental illness, including depression.  I suspect that if Obamacare truly gets fully rolled out, “the folks” are going to be asking for a lot more prescriptions for valium. .

ARE YOU NUTS? OR IS IT ME?

As I look back over my life I realize that I have had to make many decisions –choosing between two or even more alternative plans of action.  Some of those decisions worked out well – others, not so much.  I have always replayed the thinking that went into those poor decisions to see where I went wrong – not for the purpose of beating myself up in a frenzy of self-flagellation but to avoid repeating the mistake in the future.  But even after deciding on a path that didn’t work out well, I’ve never questioned the state of my mental health.  Until now.

As we have embarked on peeling back the onion which was the life of the mentally disturbed Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, as I suggested in an earlier post, more information would be uncovered and dissected by the media.  After all, they have space to fill.

One of the assertions that was made truly stunned me.  That was that, besides the obvious, Alexis’ several detentions for shooting a firearm in his apartment and shooting out someone’s tire; informing the police in Rhode Island that he had to move to three different motel rooms in one night because “the voices” were pursuing him, a message they apparently ignored; we should have seen his potential for being a violent person for one obvious reason, that being that he was a loner and didn’t have a Facebook account!

Perhaps not being a Facebook subscriber is an indication of mental illness.  I have read countless studies that suggest a majority of the homeless who live on the street have mental problems.  Obviously, when you’re living in a cardboard box you aren’t likely to have Wi-Fi up and running to allow you access to the internet on your laptop.  And while you might consider connecting at your local Starbucks, I wonder if you would be any more welcome there than those carrying weapons – or whether you could afford any of their beverages.

There are a number of people whom I know who feel that Facebook provides them with a valuable way to communicate with their families in an efficient manner.  That makes sense to me.  But I wonder how many of the subscribers utilize the platform in that manner.

My sense of the “social media,” mainly derived from anecdotal evidence and from the statements of those who are avid users, is that it they are a crutch which people who have difficulty communicating or relating to other people on a direct, interpersonal basis prefer to use to express themselves.  One of my acquaintances who is an active Facebook user, recently broke up with his girl friend by sending her a text message, announcing the end of their relationship.  Such is our modern, technological world.

It is always dangerous and probably inaccurate to make sweeping statements about any group of people, particularly when they number in the millions, and expect that we are categorizing them in an accurate manner.  Having made that disclaimer, I look at the social media with a certain amount of distrust – if only because they themselves admit that at least twenty percent of the profiles which are listed are either misleading or outright false.

As a child I was extremely shy – overly so.  I do not know if that was a result of a poor self-image or what other reason there might have been that caused me to be that way.  It was not because I was ugly and the kids made fun of me – I wasn’t.  It was not because I struggled in school – I excelled there.  It was not because I had no talents – I was musically gifted.  It was not because I was unpopular – my classmates generally liked me and sought me out as a friend.  Nevertheless, I was extremely reserved, introverted and uncomfortable when I met new people.

Fortunately, I overcame that.  But the way that I overcame that was that I had to overcome that to survive.  There was no anonymous platform called Facebook behind which I could hide.  My experiences and those of my contemporaries naturally forced me into associations with others on a direct, person to person basis.  That was the only basis that existed and I am grateful for that.  But I wonder if I had grown up today with the anonymity of the internet, whether I would ever have had to face dealing with people on a one on one basis and might still be that shy, introverted child.

If you were to take a poll of everyone with whom I have dealt during my life, I suspect there are a few of those who would check off the box marked “Dislike.”  But those would be very few in number.  (There’s no pleasing some people).  But I am confident that an overwhelming majority of the people who know me would be pleased at our association.  But the kind words or accolades of others doesn’t validate a person’s behavior.  That has to come from within the individual.

If I were to do something wildly outrageous, I suspect there are a sufficient number of moral heathens in our global society who would enjoy my performance and actively share that with others of their fellow degenerates.  My Facebook “Like” button might well get near being worn out.  So does that constitute an endorsement for my behavior?  I guess if you look at the raw numbers you might say that it would.  But if you consider the character of those who are the plebiscite, you might draw a different conclusion.  We all know that bad news sells.  So does bad behavior.

Several years ago I was playing poker and seated across from me was a fellow who claimed to be one of the people involved in the “Girls Gone Wild” tapes that were being sold on television.  He went on for some time about how much money he and his partners had made with this venture.  I believe that he was probably telling the truth.  Other than the ads, I never viewed the tapes, and based on what was presented in the ads would certainly not purchase an hour and a half’s worth of watching young women getting drunk and allowing their libidos to take over their actions.  But there are people who have different tastes and who found these tapes entertaining and titillating.  Would I feel proud if a large number of these went to my Facebook page and clicked the “Like” button?  I don’t think so.

If I saw a value in the social media I would have a presence there.  But I don’t.  I would rather have a sage person offer me good constructive criticism than a group of self-absorbed, self-adulating people tell me how wonderful I am and want to be my “friend”.  But that’s me.  I guess that makes me suspect in the minds of the madding crowd.  And that’s okay.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  What’s yours?

OOPS!!! (Or: DO I HAVE EGG ON MY FACE?)

It was February 7, 2013 and I sat down to write my more or less daily post.  My laptop and I exchanged blank stares at each other – it waiting for me to do something that would stimulate it into activity.  But as I sat there, all that went through my head was “white noise” – a tabula rasa where something clever should have been.  So I said to myself, “Self – you’ve written a lot and you’re entitled to a day off.”  So I took one.

I was no more stimulated the following day or the next.  I mean, with the failure of the Mayan Apocalypse to materialize, the world was as brain dead as ever and I guessed that I had joined the ranks of the Great Unthinking.

No matter how much I contorted myself, I just couldn’t squeeze out anything that I thought would be of interest to anyone – myself included.  So I decided to take a week off from blogging.  And I did.  If this was an example of writer’s block, I was the ultimate blockhead.

Armed with a week’s rest I was certain that my remaining 27 brain cells would have had sufficient time to recharge and get me going again.  However, I was feeling no more inspired than a week before and I thought that I should just go on a somewhat indefinite leave.  But I didn’t want any of those who were following this blog to worry about my physical well-being (I know some of you have concern for the state of my mental health), so I wrote up a nice post and scheduled it to be published a week later – thinking that just in case the Muse came to pay a call on me I could cancel it.

The Muse must have been on vacation because I wasn’t feeling any more insightful that week than the previous one – so I thought, I’ll get back to blogging when I’m feeling inspired again.  (And I’d covered my bases with the pre-scheduled explanation).

The only thing that went wrong with this plan – (I had never used Scheduler before) was that I forgot to push the button – which I only just discovered this afternoon.  OOPS!!!

My apologies to all those who have expressed concern.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your checking on me.  But I am alive and well and ready to spring back into action.  (That is in earnest after I cull through the 12,000 emails that have accumulated in my absence).

I hope all of you are well and I look forward to visiting with all of you very soon.

PULLING THE PLUG

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.

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