Six years after the official end of analog television in the United States, I am preparing to enter the digital watching world with my first HDTV, and I have decidedly mixed feelings.
I’ve been without TV since 2009, when my free digital converter box from the government (which would rather we be watching television than doing something troublesome, like paying attention) refused to play nice with my old analog set. By way of channels, I received, precisely … nothing.
I’d had only local free TV, so this was no great loss. And in the years since, I’ve been content with the video library of old movies I created during a short-lived romance with cable, and free DVDs from the public library. I’ve enjoyed the occasional invitation to watch television at a friend’s house, but the clamor of commercials always made me glad to come home to my modest little set-up.
But something shifted in me a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s house. We were watching a football game on a 55-inch HDTV in her cozy sunken living room, lying back in bookend recliners, nibbling finger food and quaffing beer from a drop-down snack tray in between.
And, finally, it happened: I felt impoverished by my TV-less existence.
It was evident from the gusto with which I then pursued digital television education and acquisition that my discontent had been brewing for some time. Within 10 days, I had researched and ordered an HDTV and streaming device and changed Internet providers to accommodate my plan to stream television and movies, thereby sidestepping the cost and commercials of cable. After years of apparent indifference, I made the digital leap in what amounted to a hot half-second.
Yet, I’m uneasy. I set up my big new TV downstairs, but it’s not yet plugged in. I find myself circling it warily, as if it might independently leap to life and finish what aging has begun, turning my mind to mush. I expect the streaming device to arrive today, though it was supposed to be delivered yesterday.
“My Roku has not arrived,” I kvetched to a friend in a morning e-mail, “so I am stuck paying attention to chickens, cats, the damp hint of Spring in the air and other boring crap.”
I was joking, but this is exactly it: Like most people, I have enough trouble staying mindful and present to the small and quiet beauties of our lives without the bright, noisy and lobotomizing competition of television. I am worried about the disensouling potential of my new entertainment system.
So I went out to the coop this morning and sat down on a bale of alfalfa, coffee in hand and hens all around. “Girls,” I said. “You must help me.”
They looked expectantly at me, hopeful that I was going to offer them some treat. My cats — also wondering about the treat thing — listened from a respectful distance.
“You must remind me, every minute that I am privileged to be in your company, that the simplest of living things — right down to the tiniest bug, and yea, even smaller — the amoebas and paramecium and even bacteria — is more wondrous and worthy of my careful attention than the greatest digital creation.”
This is my hope: that these beautiful, engaging animals, and also the wild creatures who inhabit my life, will remain an anchor as I venture into the HDTV world. That their fleshed, furred and feathered selves will bring me home to what matters, time and again. Lest I waste my life. And miss theirs.
OK. It’s time to plug in…..
Another shot of that Brahma … I take her any day over my television …