t.v. dinner (an addendum)

Recently I wrote a piece, called t.v. dinner, about the realization that, though I have no television, I actually, most nights, have dinner for t.v. Meaning, the amount of time I spend on deciding what to cook for dinner, prepping the ingredients, eating and then cleaning up—that actually amounts to my evening—a typical amount of tv viewing time for ‘normal’ people.

It was a news flash, of sorts, for me to realize why I never had ‘time’ for watching tv, or using my monthly netflix subscription. It also helped me to realize why many people don’t really have time for all that is involved in cooking (from ingredients, not from a container) in this way.

But the problem is, it’s hard not to sound self-righteous when claiming to not watch tv. Somehow it just sounds judgmental, even if you don’t mean or intend it to be. I hate sounding judgmental.

I realized, after that post, that the comments I received were from people who already agreed with me—others who have no tv, don’t watch tv, or believe in ‘slow food’ as opposed to fast. I appreciated the comments and was encouraged by them. It’s always nice to have affirmation.

Of course I’m happy to provide encouragement to other tv disavowers. But what I’d also like to do is to speak a word to the tv watchers. Shaming them for their tv watching is, then, not the best approach to that—I’m just guessing here.

Therefore, a confession, specifically for the tv watching crew: last night I happened to be in the US, staying at my mom’s house while she was out of town. (For the record, she has a tv.) It was approaching the evening hour, so I began to consider what to make for dinner. I looked in the pantry and in the fridge to see what ingredients might be available. I found some pasta, onions, pesto, and tomatoes, and decided that simple Italian would be the menu. It didn’t take much prep (other than putting out the fire in the toaster oven—it did not turn off automatically, and, also for the record, pine nuts burst into some really vibrant flames when left too long in the toaster) and so it was fairly early when, dinner in hand, I sat down to eat.

That is when it happened… I reached for the remote. As in, the tv remote.

It was not that there was anything on that I wanted to watch. I have no idea what might be on at 6:30 on a Sunday evening. (Though I do like 60 minutes.) No, I simply sat down, and reached for the remote, out of pure habit in that space.

And caught myself.

Which, of course, gave me time to ponder. (Pondering being one of my favorite spiritual disciplines. Some call it contemplation. I like to call it pondering. But that’s another story.) The thing is, my life here in the US is structured in a different way from my life in Baja. It was that structure, that pattern, that I reached for, in picking up the remote, more than any particular desire to watch tv. It was that pattern that meant I almost didn’t even realize what I was doing, except that I had just been talking about the tv dinner with a tv watching friend, so it was percolating in my mental space.

My ‘pattern’ in Baja doesn’t include tv because, for the most practical reason, I don’t have one. If I want to watch tv I have to go seek it out. I’m lazy enough that the extra step of that keeps me from actually partaking, unless it is something that I am really quite interested in.

My pattern in Baja does include a nightly ritual surrounding the celebration of food, the actual ingredients from the garden or the local market, and enjoying its beauty and its bounty. It is not a chore for me to perform this nightly ritual, because it is one I am, in a sense, programmed into in my life there. In fact, it is something I miss when I am away, and which I find myself looking forward to most days.

Of course I’m aware of the power of habit in performing any action, or in making any life shift—moving something from an intentional activity into a pattern is key to ‘succeeding’ in incorporating that activity into life—whether it be exercise, healthy eating, spending time with people, or taking on some new hobby or learning.

But what I hadn’t realized was how easily I could shift from one ‘pattern’ to another, simply based on the context, and what was ‘normal’ in that space. Which, of course, got me to pondering again, this time about how the external environment contributes or detracts from our internal desires and intentions. But that pondering will have to marinate a bit more.

What I came to realize is that it is not actually the tv watching itself that, in my previous post, I sought to understand or describe. (of course there is trash on tv and of course there is amazing and witty and informative tv, and everything in between and it all can be entertaining and wonderfully mind numbing in moderation.)

I think it is more the pattern, the habit of it, that when it is part of our routine, we don’t even question—the fact that it didn’t occur to me that I might ‘find time’ for tv, or the fact that it doesn’t occur to many that they might ‘find time’ for cooking healthy meals. It is the habit that fascinates me, and its power to make that pattern seem normal, self-evident, and unquestioned.

This not watching tv thing…it leaves a person with a lot of time for thinking. Maybe Desperate Housewives isn’t such a bad idea after all…

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