Sweet Release

Think about it: For most of the history of the world, people have managed to live interesting lives without 24-hour access to over a hundred channels. While I was in treatment for breast cancer, I watched more tv than usual, and I became especially disturbed by the increasing meanness of commercials and children’s programming. When my cable company threatened to up my internet/tv connection bill by fifty bucks a month, I rebelled, quit, changed my internet service, bought rabbit ears, and went into two weeks of withdrawal.

It hurt at first. I missed my favorite programs–the daily Law and Order reruns on TNT and the most creative program on television bar none, Alton Brown’s Good Eats on FoodTV–but somehow paying $99/month for those seemed over the top.

Now I get six channels for free. FREE! I’m saving $1,500 a year! Hey, I can go to Paris for that. Best of all, however, are the books I’m reading. From my desk I can reserve anything online at my public library, and sooner or later, my turn to read it comes up. I can order almost anything, in or out of print, on line. I am blessed with delicious prose, absorbing stories–portable, private, unending, ad-free pleasure. And if I miss the visuals, I just rent a DVD. Heck, I bet pretty soon I can even rent entire seasons of Good Eats.

There is a problem: Books are so seductive that I’m spending more time reading than I ever spent watching TV. Right now I’m halfway through Wendell Berry’s latest novel, Hannah Coulter. It’s deep, soothing, philosophical, and easy to lose myself in. Wendell Berry articulates loss and grief so well that he pulls me into life again along with his characters.

Quitting TV finally feels as freeing as quitting smoking, effective as a healing antacid, and oh, what a relief it is.