Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Radical Abstinence

My five seconds of fame in Phoenix arrived this week as my name appeared in bold print in a newspaper column written by the notorious Ed Montini of the Arizona Republic. Check it out here: http://www.azcentral.com/members/Blog/EJMontini/43310#comments

While I am by no means a purist on this issue (I was raised on a steady diet of sitcoms and comedy shows, such as Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, Sonny and Cher, Carol Burnett and Laugh-In), I do maintain that spending federal dollars...1.3 billion of them!...to support the option of tv viewing is a careless waste of taxpayer funding, even if it was raised selling off bandwidth. Two vouchers per household?! One is enough. What surprises me more is that choosing not to own or spend time watching tv is considered by so many people to be a radical act of abstinence. Not only that, an UN-American, elitist, snobbish act. Oh well. I'll take those hits. Mostly though, I just don't have the time...4-6 hours a day by some polls.... to sit around and watch or listen to the TV. I'd rather nap, have sex, take a bath, lay in the sun, write, or talk to a friend than watch The Hills, American Idol or even the Super Bowl. Call me a heretic. I'm okay with that.

There are other forms of abstinence I choose as well that probably cinch my status as an un-American elitist snob. And maybe some Luddite leanings.
-I do not own a microwave oven (even though some "green" proponents say it uses less energy than a conventional oven). I just don't have the space in my kitchen`.
-I don't wear make-up or dye my hair. It shows for sure, but I don't care.
-I don't clip coupons. Another waste of my time.
-I have never been to Disney Land and hope to keep it that way. (The desire to hang out at an amusement park was beaten out of me during my first job as a teenager at Six Flags of America near Chicago.)
-Because I don't have a TV, I have never seen video footage of the Twin Towers going down, and am very happy to never ever see that horrible disaster on film. We hear enough about it.

I've read other reports of radical acts of abstinence lately. There was one of a couple who decided to see if they could survive on $1.00 a day (each) expenses for food. The guy lost 15 pounds in one month. The woman only lost 5. I guess she didn't miss the chips and beer. http://onedollardietproject.wordpress.com/

An entire group of people have banded together to join something called "The Compact," in which they agree to support one another in a lifestyle of not buying anything "new" for at least a year. http://sfcompact.blogspot.com/

What I'd really like to accomplish, which seems on par with living in the stone age anymore, is to live without my computer. No e-mail. No blogging. No Internet. No Google. No Mapquest. No You Tube videos to make me laugh my ass off. No on-line bill paying. Go back to the old-fashioned travel agency approach to buying a plane ticket now and then. No renewing my overdue library books on line. No paperless newsletters. No forwarded chain mails. No ads for Viagra. Could I do it? How would I survive? Is it American?????

Well, I've got a couple of friends who have actually accomplished this radical act of abstinence and still are able to maintain healthy, vibrant lifestyles, fulfilling jobs and have real social lives! I envy them.

But leave me without internet access for a couple of days, and I feel like I've been cut off from the rest of the world! This happened to me over the past two days, and I was apoplectic with frustration trying to communicate with a voice activated technical helper at Cox Communications. I withered hours away during those days trying to solve the problem. On the second evening, of course, my geek husband solved the problem in a matter of seconds.

Why is it though, that having grown up and made it through graduate school (in science) without the Internet, and barely with a computer, I now feel like a quadrapaligic without it? Mind you, when I'm away from my home doing other things that please me, such as biking, running, or going on a 30 day river trip, it phases me not a second to be separated from the computer. But at home, it is an absolute necessity in my life. Or at least feels that way.

Then I think: how much time do I spend on the computer each day? What things could I do with that time that might actually make me feel happier, develop useful skills, improve my relationships, help me be healthier, better entertained and more well-informed? What if, just what if, I made a pact with myself to not touch the keyboard or mouse or even look at the screen over someone else's shoulder for one week while around the house? That would be a radical act of abstinence for me. Much as is the idea of making it through a day without American Idol, CNN or Fox News for others. Okay, you go first!

What would be your most radical act of abstinence?


Allan Stellar said...

I love this post...wonderful!

I disagree with you on the computer thing. We need information! We need good opinion! We need more writers (such as yourself)!

Joni and I have discontinued our cellphones. First off, they don't work out here in the boonies. They are expensive. But also some have asserted that cell phones are responsible for the colony collapse of the honey bee. Most see that as a crackpot theory...but it is good enough for me to seperate myself from that obnoxious tether with the bizarre ringtones (I especially hate what teenagers choose!).

Nothing wrong with a landline...

Belladonna said...

Years ago our cousin Chris Theriult turned me on to two amazing Sci Fi books by Verner Vinge...The Peace War and the follow up sequel Marooned in Real Time In the first book we are introduced to a world where people have some sort of link implanted directly in their brains so they can download data by thought. Instead of going to a computer to Google a question all you would have to do is think the question and information would come streaming in. I believe it is in the second book one of the characters gets stranded outside the "Bobble" (have to read the book for that bit of technology) and has had her prosthetic link to the universe of information disabled. She feels crippled. She has to figure things out by trial and error and direct experience. There are some great word pictures in the passages describing her frustration and fear at not having access to the information she has taken for granted her whole life.

It really made me rethink how much I use technology and to examine the ways my tools and toys serve me, and to consider the ways I may be overly dependant on them.

Both books were brought together in a single volume called Across Realtime If you like Science Fiction AT ALL it is well worth the read. Great character development and an engaging plot. It has been a long time since I entered that world, I just may have to go back and read it again.

Jackijo said...

I think maybe we could start with less instead of none. Less TV (for me that would be none) Less cell phone, less internet (perhaps limit myself to only checking my e-mail once a day).

I think it's worth a try. How about once a week use no gas, spend no money, watch no TV?

Let me know what you think about this idea.

Amber said...

I've been thinking about this for a few days now and it's such a hard question. I certainly couldn't go without a computer or the internet since that's how I work and I consider it a wonderful blessing to be able to do so. I can understand wanting to leave TV in the dust, but I enjoy it a lot and honestly have a hard time thinking of making that tough choice. I'm really not sure what would be the hardest thing for me to abstain from would be, but I certainly think it is a healthy practice to just consider the absence of things in our lives. It makes for a fuller sense of gratitude and mindfulness.