To live more voluntarily means to encounter life more consciously. To live more simply is to encounter life more directly.
- Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity
I remember very clearly the night I decided to stop watching television. It was a Saturday evening in April of 1997. Flipping through the channels I found a sitcom on TV Land and started watching. I forget what show it was, but it was a show that had never really taken off during its original run.
But for some reason on this night, TV Land was running a marathon of this sitcom. Since I had never seen the original, all the episodes were new to me. I watched through six episodes before deciding that I had had enough.
When I turned off the TV, I realized that my Saturday evening was gone. I had wasted it lying on the couch, alone with the tube. How many more did I want to waste?
I unplugged the TV that night, and didn't plug it in again for another six months. When I did, I found that I had a completely different attitude about television. I couldn't get into a new series without thinking about how much time it would take away from other activities. I couldn't watch a commercial without a healthy skepticism of the advertiser's motives.
Whereas I had once thought of television as a way to unwind, I now see it as a distraction from life -- even moreso now that I am a father. I would much rather run through a sprinkler in the back yard with my son, or walk with him down to the railroad tracks, than to sit with him in front of a glowing box.
Usually I don't make major decisions quickly, but the choice I made on the spur of the moment on an April night in 1997 has turned out to be a major factor in shaping who I am.