Tuesday, February 9, 2016

38. David Foster Wallace and Lent.

I’ve grown to respect Easter as a holiday more and more as I grow older. (I would say “like” but nobody really likes giving up stuff for five weeks.)

A radio interview I heard with the author David Lipsky made me question what I should give up for the time before Easter. Lipsky interviewed the late writer David Foster Wallace twenty years ago. He followed Wallace for a number of days for Rolling Stone piece on the release of Wallace’s epic, Infinite Jest. The transcripts from that interview were released into a book, “Of Course, You End Up Becoming Yourself.” (Which I have on the table next to me.) And there was a movie released last year about the whole thing called, “The End of the Tour.” (Which I have not seen yet.)

Check out the interview here.

I had to play this quote from Wallace a few times when I first heard it:

“We’re going to have to develop some real machinery inside our guts to turn off pure unalloyed pressure. or I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have to leave the planet.
“The technology is going to get better and better and it’s going to get easier and more and more convenient and more and more pleasurable to sit alone with images on a screen, given to us by people who do not love us, but want our money.”

That is eerily accurate. We have Netflix and Twitter and YouTube and a range of things that can give us pleasure 24 hours a day. I know my time in front of a screen has probably quintupled since high school. I mean, you can literally watch Netflix for years and not rewatch a single show or movie.

So, I decided that I’m going to give up Netflix for Lent. I’ve tried to become more cognizant of when I become mindless about things, whether it’s entertainment or eating. You know the feeling, when you just keep doing an action because it’s what you know and you hope to receive a benefit from it. I want that to stop (or at least slow down) for the time before Easter. I average probably an hour a night of watching streaming entertainment. I might be able to learn a thing or two in those 40 or so hours I’ll get back.

It’s weird that a lot of my conversation subject matter in recent months is about shows people are currently binge watching. Don’t we have anything better to talk about? (Well, I guess if we don’t talk about Netflix, it’ll be politics or something.)

I’m not going to give up watching television altogether, but I’m going to cut back on my mindless television. It’s something I’ll have to plan out, sit down, and enjoy. It’s weird to say, but watching something on broadcast tv takes effort.  I’ll also watch movies, but they have to be DVD’s. That takes at least some physical effort to go through your DVD collection. (As opposed to just constantly scrolling through menus.)

Hopefully this time away from Netflix will allow me to do some more productive and fulfilling things with my life.

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