Thank God for TV
It’s true, the lessons we learn from TV are seemingly endless. How else would I know how to dress myself or how other families operate in their households? I don’t have the resources (time, financial, or energy-wise) to go to New York for a consultation with Stacy and Clinton every time I put on clothes. And aside from the weird Three’s-Company lifestyle I live with my roommates, I know of no sister wives within reasonable driving distance of my home.
On Friday evening as I prepared for the Sabbath, I was pleased to discover that my old friends the Fab 5 are on Netflix. While “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” might seem like an unusual choice for Sabbath practice (and no, I did not spend all day watching it, so you can just wipe that judgy look off your face, thank you) its spiritual insight can be neatly summed up in this quote from Carson: “Spa treatments can be expensive. But you know what’s more expensive? Divorce.”
The same is true for Sabbath. As of today, I have practiced Sabbath for reals(-ish) exactly one time and that was two days ago. I did a practice run last week; add to that a long lunch on Thursday and we can round it up to two Sabbaths (again, -ish). All that to say, I am not a big proponent of not working. I am, however, a huge proponent of wasting time, so I’m starting to wonder if maybe I could combine the two and effectively transform my love of procrastination to something spiritually productive.
As Carson said, there’s a cost to taking care of yourself, but it must be weighed against the cost of not taking care of yourself. We all run the risk of becoming awful, hairy, and unloveable when we don’t.
I also know–at least on an intellectual level that I’ve yet to translate into any kind of practical knowledge–that my inability to calm down, not worry, and not feel like I have to be productive all the time comes from a need to prove myself. To who? I have no idea. I guess myself and probably God. But I’m starting to wonder if it’s not a good idea to watch more TV, at least in the short run. Because the thing is, nothing bad ever happens when I do.
So, if I’m going to take time to re-watch all the “The West Wing” (it is that time of year, after all!) and I can see that it doesn’t make me worse at my job, it doesn’t make my family love me any less, and it doesn’t probably have any impact on my eternal salvation, why don’t I take even a fraction of that amount of time to, I don’t know, go for a walk at the beach and just enjoy the sunset for the sake of its beauty?
So far I’m just testing the waters, teaching myself that work is for work time, study is for study time. While I do genuinely enjoy those things, I need to learn to relax and enjoy the rest of life too. As much as energy as I put toward proving myself, it’s not working. No one is convinced, least of all God. I might as well take a break. And shouldn’t I know I’m not kidding anyone? Honestly, if I can spend an entire weekend watching “Six Feet Under,” clearly my to-do list isn’t really as important to me as I pretend it is.
Of course God only knows what insecurities will emerge if I slow down and turn off screens and noise, so I only do it in small doses right now. A few episodes of Queer Eye, some journaling about deep-seated anxieties over a late lunch, read a book for a bit, watch the sunset, and drive through the country singing along to the radio. Everything in moderation.
I hear there was a time after TV was invented but before the Internet was around (you may have learned about this in school: it was called The Dark Ages?) and if you wanted to watch something like “The West Wing” you had to get home in time and actually turn on something called a television (I know, I don’t get it either, just bear with me). The point is that you had to interrupt what you were doing and set aside time. I want to apply this idea to the Sabbath. That’s my next step. I’d like to stop whatever seems so important that I couldn’t possibly not do it right now (suddenly I have to clean out the trunk of my car? Girl, please). Whatever the cost, I want to pause and create a specific, set-aside time for Sabbath rest. I’m starting to get the idea that in the long run the cost of not doing it is going to be greater.
I just don’t want to get to a point in my life where five gay men hold an intervention and wax my obscenely back on TV. Or more realistically, miss out on the beauty of life because I’m too busy putting off going to the spa.