The first television I saw was displayed in the front window of an appliance store on Main Street in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in 1950. It had a real wood cabinet which swallowed the 9” screen. The picture was a blurry black and white that showed the same Indian Chief test pattern for hours. It just sat there as a continuously gasping crowd of gawkers oohed and aahed. I was unaware that I was in the presence of the beginning of the end of meaningful conversation, the reading of books and independent judgment based on individual investigation and analysis.
These insights appeared to me after almost 70 years because Peg and I have spent the past two weeks without access to television. I mention this woman I found living with me because until a couple of weeks ago our conversations had for years, especially the last two years, consisted mainly of “What is a Kardashian and what is it that they are doing?” Or, “Can you believe what those bobbing heads, most of whom seem to be twenty years old and chosen for their hairstyles, just stated as fact?”
With the T.V. out of the picture Peg and I have made some startling discoveries. It turns out we both enjoy getting out of our matching recliners and going outside. There is a lot to do out there. And we discovered that rather than watching inane commentary from screaming news pundits we seem to have some common interests, three children and seven grandchildren for instance, who are themselves engaged in some fascinating endeavors. Well, at least when they are not glued to some T.V. program such as Duck Dynasty or The View or on a cell phone.
Another discovery I made about Peg is she knows quite a bit about non-television things. These past two weeks we have wondered together how long the ten-thousand-year Egyptian dynasty would have made it had Egyptian children been educated by re-runs of Howdy Doody instead of mentoring by Imhotep. By the way, according to Wikipedia, Imhotep means “The one who comes in peace”, a pretty good mantra for civilizations wishing to build more than hamburger stands and hoping to last more than a few years.
Now, I know the smart people who read this column, and only smart people do, have picked up on a logical lacuna in my diatribe against television. How is reliance on the Internet any better? Well, it isn’t; it’s worse. In fact, what little bit of culture and polite conversation was left after television became ubiquitous has now been obliterated by cell phones, Snap Chat, Twitter, etc., etc.
My only defense is, society started me on this downhill slide in 1950. In other words, if I had been like Alexander the Great and had Aristotle as my personal advisor, instead of television, I too could have been great.