Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TV and Lent

About 35 years ago I was watching Firing Line, William F. Buckley's TV show. He was interviewing Malcolm Muggeridge, who at some point said, "you know, every important thing I've learned I learned by suffering," or words to that effect. I was about 15 years old, and thought that was a dumb thing to say. Old British twit. I had learned plenty and was not a sufferer by any means. But it was such an intriguing concept that I retained it, even though I didn't understand it....which makes a good motto: remember now, understand later. It would sound better in Latin. Or French.

Anyway, I was raised on TV. Not that I watched some insane amount of it, but it was a normal part of life. But after having kids of my own I began to worry that the quantity & quality of cable fare was more problematic than the programming content of my childhood, both for me and the kids. Not that I did anything about it.

Then about 13 years ago, our pastor, Fr. Day, suggested at Mass that we parishioners consider giving up TV for Lent. I'd considered it before....and passed. But that year while driving home, my Fabulous Wife and I decided we'd try it, cold turkey. The kids were maybe 4 or 5 years old; they were not consulted.

The next day, Monday, I returned the converter box. The cable company rep asked me what was wrong with the cable box? Nothing, we're just giving up TV for Lent. A couple of people thought that was incredible, asked about the thinking behind it. I pointed out we hadn't actually missed any TV yet, and it might not work out.

Monday was awful. So was Tuesday. But by Sunday, we were adjusting. Within 2 weeks, we were acclimated. Easter Sunday rolled around, and we and the kids decided to just leave the TV off indefinitely.

Now, years later, life is good. We adults watch DVDs late in the evening, which is controllable and requires effort. The kids can do the same on the weekends, but they usually don't. The house is quiet, a refuge. Family dinner conversation often extends beyond the meal. The kids turned out just fine. For being teenagers, they are surprisingly unmaterialistic.

And the credit goes to the Church, whose institutional memory knows the value of sacrifice, and suffering (not that this was all that painful, but that's part of the point, like giving blood: actually donating it is easier than anticipating donating it). And of course, we learned from this experience, although at the start all we expected was to suffer, not to learn; certainly not to to learn we could be happier by giving up something that we liked. And in the bigger picture I learned to pay closer attention to what the Church teaches, even if (especially if) it's something I don't much want to do.

Smart Church...she knew this would happen.

Muggeridge, too. Smart Brit twit.