I read something in a home/decorating type magazine the other day that made me furious. It was an article about outdoor rooms and it said something about the flat screen TV that allows the family to spend time together outside. Are you kidding me? Because families don't already spend ample time gathered around watching TV? It being outside makes it somehow better? This isn't the first time I've ever heard of an outdoor TV, but the way it was phrased, the assumption it made--that families spend quality time parked in front of a TV, AND that there isn't anything else to do outdoors--oh, I was just so mad.
I remember the campfires we used to have when I was a kid. My dad, not the most talkative or imaginative guy, used to tell spooky stories. There was one about a wolf, and I don't remember all the details, but I remember being terrified to make my way back into the house--usually pleading with him to walk me in so I could pee.
And I remember floating around the lake in an inner tube, sitting on the porch, walking through the woods--in silence. I used to make up stories in my head, long epics about who knows what, but I'd spend hours by myself, in my head (this perhaps explains my somewhat difficult time with reality to this day).
My friends and I made our Barbies elaborate outdoor houses. We hosted outdoor "restaurants" for our parents where we served appetizers consisting of jarred pickles and sliced tomatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper. We sprawled on towels, read books and magazines, listened to music, talked about what we wanted to do with our lives. At night, we danced under the stars, lit sparklers, and told stories around those campfires.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not anti-TV. I have shows I watch faithfully (especially things that make people cook strange ingredients). And, as a kid, I remember watching Three's Company with my mom at the breakfast bar while she cooked dinner and I did homework. But I never watched much, and I wonder if I had, what would have become of my imagination?
For Lent this year I gave up all alone-time TV, meaning I couldn't have it on as just mindless background noise. Maybe not the world's hugest sacrifice, but I really did it as an experiment to see how much my head was getting cluttered. The answer turned out to be: a lot. I found the silence kind of nice, and when I didn't want silence, I turned on the radio for music or NPR. It made me feel less frantic. These days, I have the TV on more often, but I'm more mindful of it.
It's good to let the silence in, to let the stories grow.