Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Friday, April 24, 2009

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In: A New Wednesday Tradition

I am appropriating (and altering) the original Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out “mantra” of the 60s counterculture to suit my own counterculture purposes.

Deep River Land Trust sent home a reminder via Gavin’s first grade assignment folder: this week is National TV Turnoff Week. We were reminded of the many local parks and other unplugged entertainments awaiting us. So our family is making inroads into tuning out from the seductive, sedating hum that is our TV and “dropping” back in to that somewhat foreign experience known as “real life”.

Our first foray ended up in a rewarding natural high. Gavin chose a CD (Abbey Road) to wake us from our opiate (of the masses) slumber. He doodled and played for a while. I found small things for Gavin to help with: he refilled our hand soaps, washed dishes very meticulously, fed the dog and enjoyed it. We made dinner together.

Later, we all sat down for what turned out to be a killer game of Monopoly. I discovered that Gavin has the makings of a railroad tycoon. I also discovered:

  • TV doesn’t necessarily relax me; it often just helps me avoid and escape the business (and even the pleasure) of life
  • The seduction of TV is the ease. It takes a bit of an effort to figure out what else to do, especially at the end of a long workday. But once you reawaken those dormant creative muscles, some good surprises await you
  • TV can limit your child's experience of contributing to the household. It may feel easier to have Gavin “entertained”, but it feels infinitely better to see him take ownership of some more mature tasks
  • There’s no substitute in a family for sitting around a table or taking a walk together, for the increasingly rare gifts of undivided attention and real conversation

Tom had Gavin watch a video last night while I went out. He didn’t feel well, and hadn’t the stamina to make the effort. But today we will be back to a TV-free house.

I know if we kept at this ad infinitum that not every night would be as joyful as that first one, which of course carried with it a sense of novelty and adventure. And I imagine it would be harder to pull off in the dark and chill of winter. But the experiment, which I highly recommend, is a wake up to experiences that offer more mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional bang per buck. Once we “survive” Turnoff week, we are instituting a No TV Wednesday policy. I have a feeling it may lead to even more TV-free days.

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