So, what do you watch at night?

The conversation never goes the same way twice.  The reactions vary widely.  My favorite so far is:

Them:   Did you see [insert name of show here] last night?

Me:        No, I don’t have a TV.

Them:   What?

Me:        I don’t have a TV.

Them:   Not even one?

Me:        Nope.

Them:  So, what do you watch at night?

Other responses include: “Man, I wish I could get rid of my TV”, “I could never get rid of my TV”, and “I’ve thought about getting rid of my TV.”  People were especially surprised when I worked for Comcast (world’s largest cable provider) while not owning a TV.

A little history.  Annie and I got married in March of 2005.  We had a month together, but then military duties kept us separated from each other until August, 2005.  When I joined her in Georgia, the first three things I bought were a microwave, a TV and a DVD player.  It was a 27” CRT, and we kept it until 2010.  At that point, I found a 55” HD rear-projection TV on Craigslist for $125.  A friend and I brought it home, and I proudly set it up.  We finally had High Definition.  Then, I built a Media Center PC and ripped my entire DVD library to the hard drive.  We had access to all our movies at the push of a button.  We had Netflix at the push of a button.  We had everything Comcast broadcasts at the push of a button.  We also had a Wii which was played often.  Sometime in 2012, we gave it all away.

In 2008, Dad took Jay and me on a pilgrimage to our roots in Wyoming.  That space and that time with my Father, my father and my brother started a change in me.  I didn’t recognize this until very recently, but that trip was the starting point.  Jay and I were talking about my marriage, and Jay asked how much Annie and I talked.  I don’t remember what I told him, but the honest answer was that we didn’t talk very much.  The TV was always on, even if we weren’t actively watching it.  Further on in the conversation, Jay said, “What you want to do right now is throw your TV out the window as soon as you get home.  Don’t do that.  What you need to do is go home and change.”  Wise words.

I didn’t throw my TV out the window as soon as I got home.  God faithfully, gently, lovingly started to change Annie and me.  It turns out Annie had always hated the TV, and she hated how much time we spent watching it.  I didn’t know that.  I didn’t think we spent that much time, and the time we spent wasn’t a waste to me.  I enjoyed watching TV and movies with her.  She submitted, and we kept the TV.  It took a long time before I was willing to admit the fact that something had to give.

I don’t think I willingly gave it up.  I knew it was the right thing to do.  I knew it would best for us. I honestly think God told me to.  But I didn’t want to.  We gave the TV to a friend, the Wii went to a family member, and the media center PC was parted out and scrapped.  Honestly, (I’m not joking when I say this) my first reaction to not having a TV was, “Well, now what do we do with the furniture?  There’s nothing at which to point the couch.”  We figured it out, and we’re fairly satisfied with where our furniture is now situated.  However, I was in for a surprise.

Getting rid of the TV didn’t magically change us into awesome time-managers who never waste a minute and spend all our time praying and getting closer to each other, God and our church family.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Wait, WHAT?!?!?!?”  I know, right?  It turns out that getting rid of the TV was not the one-time solution to a better marriage, better parenting and a closer walk with God.  Huh.  Interesting.

We still watch Parks & Rec on Hulu.  We still watch the occasional movie on Amazon Prime.  But the removal of the TV has forced us to be intentional in what we view.  If we are going to watch something, we have to do a little work for it, even if that work is only pulling up an additional chair to the desk and typing in a URL.  That little bit of effort is good for us.

The biggest thing for us has been the removal of convenient noise.  Removing the TV from our home removed a large source of very convenient noise.  The removal of the noise allowed us to hear God’s voice better and to engage things we had ignored but that were obviously present.  That same end could have been accomplished by simply having the self control to turn the TV off.  For us it took amputation, and it has been an extremely healthy experience.

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6 thoughts on “So, what do you watch at night?

  1. Gene…I grew up in a home where the TV was always on, there was always noise and it was always a distraction. Even as I stay at my parent’s house now, dinner is eaten in front of the TV every night. This has most definitely been the reason I have never bought a TV or paid for cable as an adult. Like you, I do watch some shows and movies online but even that only happens about once a week. But, even when I am watching something I enjoy I still find that there is always part of the experience I hate.

  2. I appreciate you saying that no TV is not the answer for a perfect marriage or intimacy with God. We tend to get stuck on quick fixes. Do this and you will get this. Problem solved. No room for humanity, for the whole of who we are, or for deeper reflection on what it means for our whole selves to really engage stuff…like TV, silence, God, or our spouse. Good stuff. Thanks Gene. Love you guys!

    • Yeah, I was big into looking for quick fixes for most of my life. Checklists were always the best way to win God’s approval. I’m really thankful I’ve been freed from that and can experience real life. It’s harder and hurts more, but it’s real and awesome.

  3. Really cool, Gene. When I was in 9th grade, I wrote a research paper about the ills of television. You present an excellent case study of my findings. Apparently my research was ahead of its time. Guess I should have submitted it to a peer-reviewed journal. 😉

    • I would love to know what a peer-review written by your co-9th-graders would have said. I’m glad I could confirm your study ~15 years later. Feel free to send this to your 9th grade teacher for extra credit. 🙂

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