“Mommy! Come quickly! The TV is smoking!”
Not quite able to wrap my mind around the words I’m hearing (The TV is smoking?! What in the world must they mean?!), yet clearly hearing urgency in their voices, I quickly head towards the living room.
And, just as they said, the TV was smoking! Smoke was literally coming out of the top of the television set.
Never having been in this predicament before, and having no framework by which to be prepared for this type of emergency, I thankfully had the wherewithal to unplug the TV. Clearly, this was the end of our television set.
And, it was the beginning of five days without a TV. Yes, five days does not seem like long. But it only takes five days to realize how much a part of one’s life a TV is! Even when you think you don’t use it much!
I could go into all the details of that week without television, and tell you about the concerns of my children (“What will we do without a TV?!) and my own surprising “TV withdrawal,” but that would be a completely different discussion. Suffice it to say, it was a week of my own internal dialogue of the good and the bad of TV and my role as Mom (and person!) in relation to this flat-screened object that makes its home in our house.
My mom, in one of her book Keep These Things, Ponder Them in Your Heart, voices her own struggle with television (thirty-plus years ago!). In her concluding paragraph in her chapter on the television entitled “Who’s Influencing My Children?” she writes:
No, like most everything else, the TV is not inherently good or evil. It holds the potential for either. The fundamental issue is, who is in control? The TV? Or are we in control?
I could go in to more detail of my own thoughts from my week without TV, concerning this issue, but my mom does it so well that I will actually post that chapter here on my blog in a few days.
Instead, I’m focusing on another issue that came to light during my five-day TV hiatus. During this time, I was reminded of an experience a few years ago. For almost two weeks, we were without both phone and internet (and that was before I had a cell phone!). I was basically cut off from all communication! Thankfully, Randy had internet at work and would check my emails for me during the day. And he had a cell phone, so I could also make calls at the end of the day, if need be. And, at the time, I was at church quite a bit throughout the week (MOPS, Bible Study, preschool), so I was able to check emails there and use the phone. But while at home during the day, I was utterly and completely cut off from all communication with the rest of the world!
I made it through those two weeks (obviously). It was a struggle at first, and a huge lifestyle adjustment, but what stands out to me the most was the good that ended up coming out of it. By being out of touch with the world, I was able to become more in touch with myself and God. I was given the gift of time. Of space. And, surprisingly (or not!), it was refreshing. And restful. And good.
Edward W. Bok, in his book, Twice Thirty, talks about this very thing. Though written in 1925, his words still can speak to us today. And challenge us.
In the chapter, “Out of Touch in Florida,” Bok reflects on his decision to spend three months of the year in Florida. An amazing business man (editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal for thirty years and quite active in the community and society of Philadelphia), his friends couldn’t understand why he would leave for three months! Especially when staying in touch wasn’t as simple as picking up a phone, sending an email, or texting or twittering. “Madness,” was their response to him, “You will get out of touch.”
He muses over this phrase in his book:
There are minds which cannot conceive that to get “out of touch” may sometimes mean to get into touch. Is it inconceivable that to sit and read and to let the world pass before one for a bit and yet not be of it or in it, may mean getting a larger perspective of truer vision? That these overbusy days may well cry aloud for a quiet stock-taking? Those there are who are afraid to be alone, but those there are also who seek for the spot where one can be apart and take an inventory of the things that count and are not of the flesh. Some natures there are who feel it incumbent to take a personal accounting…to invite the inner self and bring it to the surface. Some natures grow larger from such contacts; some thoughts come at such times that go deeper; some lives there are which become fuller and richer from the moments of quiet repose and aloofness from the traffic of the world.
How true are these words, even today. Especially today! How out of touch from the world I felt when I had no phone or internet! Yet, by being out of touch with the world, I was truly able to get in touch with myself. And as I was out of touch (or out of sorts!) last week without our TV, I was more able to “take inventory” of things. To “go deeper” as I evaluated life. Without the TV for my own personal downtime, I had the time to contemplate the role of this device more deeply in the overall life and functioning of our family.
And to delve more deeply into myself, as mentioned above by Edward Bok. And as mentioned once again in another quote from his same chapter:
If three months of glorious sunshine in a climate so gentle as to be caressing [or in my case, one week of no TV, or two weeks of no phone or internet] has put me “out of touch” with some things which in the minds of my friends [or the mind of myself, Kimberly Rockness Wood!] seem important, is it not possible that I have been permitted to come in touch with other things which are vital and likely to be more enriching, more satisfying, and perhaps a bit more deep-reaching?
Life is back to normal in the Wood household. We have a new television. I’ve established some new routines. I’m happy to be in touch via phone, cell phone, and internet. But my week of no TV – my week that afforded me extra time and hearkened me back to life without phone and internet – was a good reminder. A reminder, and a challenge, to intentionally choose to put myself “out of touch” from time to time…even when there is a TV, a phone, and internet access in my home! Because it is good for my soul.
* You can now read my mom’s chapter (from her book, Keep These Things, Ponder Them in Your Heart) about the TV. Who’s in control? Is TV good or bad? How do we raise our kids in a culture where they feel like “everyone else is doing it” when it comes to things such as watching TV? See how my mom processes through some of these questions thirty years ago in this chapter. You’ll be surprised how convicting and relevent it still is today! Click here to read it.