The Trouble with TV

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The trouble with TV is that it can get in the way of your dreams coming true. This article will explore why and how that happens.

Growing Up with TV

When I was born in 1951, TV was already available in the larger cities. So, TV has been around ever since I can remember. It was taken for granted and became an integral part of modern family life.

I watched TV, just like everyone else I knew . . . after school, after supper and occasionally on the weekend. I was an active kid and loved the outdoors, so I probably watched the tube a little less than average.

Life Without TV

When I left for college, I didn’t have a TV. I quickly discovered I didn’t miss it. When I moved to Alaska in 1972, I still had no TV. Janey and I finally bought a TV and VCR 13 years later in 1985. We watched an occasional movie, but we never watched broadcast TV. (There was no signal available where we lived.)

TV Rediscovered

In 1986, we moved back to the “Lower 48″ and discovered we could pick up three stations with the antenna. We started watching TV occasionally for the next few years.

Up to that point, I had been around TV constantly for about half of my life and totally removed from it for the other half. From that unusual perspective, it was strange to rediscover TV. Although a few of the programs were interesting (and even fewer, educational), I remember the commercials were loud, stupid and obnoxious.

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx (1890 – 1977)

“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.” – Rod Serling (1924 – 1975)

If Madison Avenue’s billions in market research arrived at this as the most effective way to communicate with the average viewer, I was clearly way off their radar. Janey felt the same way and couldn’t wait to mute the commercials the second they began. (In fact, she wore out the mute button on the remote and it had to be repaired three times!)

“. . . television’s message has always been that the need for truth, wisdom and world peace pales by comparison with the need for a toothpaste that offers whiter teeth and fresher breath.” – Dave Barry (1947 – )

One exception to our aversion to commercials is the multi-million dollar collection of ads run during the Superbowl. We enjoy the creativity and humor. It’s interesting to see who is willing to pay over a million dollars per minute to get their message delivered. Superbowl commercials have evolved into a strange art form of their own.

“Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.” – T.S. Eliot

What’s On Next?

During that era when we watched TV occasionally, we watched it deliberately. We watched only a few specific programs at specific times, and then turned off the TV. We seldom channel-surfed or watched whatever was coming on next, just because it was next.

Personal Interaction . . . or TV?

When we visited family and friends, we noticed obvious differences in TV viewing habits. Usually the TV was on, whether anyone was watching it or not. To have a conversation, we’d have to speak unnaturally loud to hear each other over the TV.

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone and you notice they aren’t looking at you but are looking around you at the TV beyond?

“Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.” – Ann Landers (1918 – 2002)

Were we the only ones who felt this glowing box in the corner was a rude interruption to personal interaction? Apparently.

“Television is more interesting than people. If it were not, we would have people standing in the corners of our rooms.” – Alan Corenk

It Has an OFF Button Too

One of my favorite things to do is turn off the TV . . . whenever I can. Ahhh! Quiet. Finally, we can hear ourselves think, and we can have a normal conversation. I am constantly amazed at how many people have the TV on in the background all the time. It’s so common, it’s considered normal.

“Don’t you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There’s one marked ‘Brightness,’ but it doesn’t work.” — Gallagher

Since I totally removed myself from TV for years at a time, it has given me a rare opportunity to see it from a different perspective. Imagine life with absolutely no TV for several years and then being around it again. Imagine the sudden impact of thousands of images and sound bites. Think of how overwhelming it could be to suddenly bombard your mind with so much unfocused, random stimulation.

Exciting? Maybe
Fun? Occasionally.
Beneficial? Questionable.

“Television: A medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well done.” – Ernie Kovacs

What Are You Attracting?

The ideas that follow are based upon familiarity with the Law of Attraction. This subject was discussed in a previous article. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you read the article entitled “The Law of Attraction” before continuing.

Here’s a quick review of the Law of Attraction . . .

“That like unto itself is drawn.” — From the book, “The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham”by Esther and Jerry Hicks

We create our lives by the thoughts we think. Supercharging our thoughts with strong feelings speeds up the process. Focusing our attention on clear mental images tells the universe what we want and puts the wheels in motion to help us manifest our dreams.

How does the Law of Attraction relate to a lifetime of regular TV viewing? With a steady diet of TV, you are giving your attention to many, many things. Some wanted. Some unwanted. You engage with some of these images and ideas deliberately . . . most of them, non-deliberately. (It’s just what came on next.) Some of the non-deliberate ideas and images are upsetting to you, and you react to them with strong emotions.

Do your recognize this combination as the formula for manifestation?

Clear mental images accompanied by strong emotions set the wheels in motion for creation. The Law of Attraction brings into your life whatever you focus your attention upon most, whether you want it or not.

The images and ideas on TV plus your emotional reaction to them contribute to your ongoing creation of your life. Unfortunately, while watching TV, you are creating accidentally, unaware, by default. Instead of deliberately choosing what you want, you are giving your attention to (and therefore creating in your life) what someone else chooses for you.

Fanning the Flames of Desire

TV is very effective at prodding you to want. After watching programs and commercials for a couple of hours, you are “aided” in visualizing hundreds of things you think you want: that flashy red car, no — that big truck . . . that slim and trim tight body, no — that pizza . . . that fancy house, no — that lifestyle of a world traveler, that TV romance, no — that one, that life of leisurely sitting on the beach sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them.

Do you really want those things?

Really? All of them? Did you choose them based upon the knowingness deep inside you? Is the pursuit of these particular desires best for you right now? Or were they chosen for you by some network executive committee, packaged by some advertising agency and delivered directly into your subconscious mind by the marvels of modern electronics? Do all those people behind the scenes pulling your strings have your best interests at heart?

What Do You Really Want?

What is best for you right now? It’s difficult to get a clear picture of that in mind while subjecting yourself to a steady diet of thousands of other pictures every day, all screaming at you that this is what you should want. No, this. And that. How about this and this and this?

“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” – Oprah Winfrey (1954 – )

Not Getting

The wanting itself is not the problem. Our life experience reveals our preferences. Desires happen as a natural by-product of living our daily lives. The confusion and frustration come from too many unfocused desires all at the same time, without the experience or knowledge of how to manifest them.

They Interrupt Us with Their Commercials
(And We Pay Them for the Priviledge)

Isn’t it interesting how originally TV was free? You bought the box, turned it on, adjusted the rabbit ears, and it pulled the images and the sound right out of the air, just like magic. Amazing! The programs, and even the commercials were fascinating, modern and novel.

After a few decades, we want more because it takes more to fascinate us. Now there are hundreds of channels. It’s still occasionally novel, but have you noticed it’s no longer free. Now that we are addicted, we are happy to pay for it. (That sounds a lot like substance abuse addiction, doesn’t it?)

The advertisers have successfully trained us to actually pay the cable company or satellite company every month for the privilege of delivering their commercials directly into our living rooms.

“It’s hard to decide if TV makes morons out of everyone or if it mirrors Americans who really are morons to begin with.” – Martin Mull

TV in the Third World

Janey and I have spent a couple of years traveling in Central America. There, TV is new and we noticed the discontent spreading in its wake.

Generally speaking, we found the people in third world countries happy and content. Only when TV is introduced do they begin to question their way of life and feel deprived, poor and incomplete compared to what they see on television.

True Contentment

We have watched a bronze-skinned, four-year-old playing happily all day in the ocean waves with a small piece of broken Styrofoam. His world is magical and wonderful. Does it do him any good to watch TV commercials of thousands of shining plastic toys and electronic gadgets?

Contentment Sabotaged

TV seems to be too much too soon for the average third-world person to assimilate, without the accompanying knowledge of how to manifest all these new instant, pre-packaged desires. These people are suddenly given a global view of all the possibilities without the benefit of the information that can help them access it in their own lives. Is it any wonder that can lead to massive frustration?

Information and education on what the rest of the world is like is a good thing, but this overwhelming barrage of consumerism and commercialism seems painfully out of place. It spawns feelings of jealousy, inferiority, and even rage. In this situation, TV is not educating so much as it’s taunting. It’s not creating bridges between people, it’s building walls. It is not healing, it’s opening new wounds of resentment – alienating people.

“Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.” – Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980)

Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Another example of TV’s questionable influence is in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. To illustrate, I was recently in a hospital surgical waiting room. All around me were dozens of people, all waiting to hear words of life and death from the doctors of their loved-ones.

For many, this was a pivotal moment in their lives . . . a time of major change . . . perhaps a new lease on life. Perhaps a time to say good-bye to a loved one. All of these people had something profound in common at that critical moment.

They also had something profane in common: they were all being bombarded with a non-stop barrage of the most disturbing information gathered from literally all over the planet. One of those perpetual “specialty” channels was blaring away with dazzling images detailing the most graphic examples of man’s inhumane treatment of his fellow man, devastating natural disasters and mayhem happening on the other side of the world.

You know, the news.

I looked around the room and saw dozens of people staring at the tube, zombie-like. Were they choosing to saturate themselves with all the worst humanity has to offer at this crucial moment in their lives? No and yes.

No, perhaps they didn’t personally turn on the tube and select the news channel. But yes, they were choosing to be affected by it by their willingness to let it continue . . . and continue . . . and continue. (Perhaps that’s how it is at home for them — it’s just on all the time in the background, and they are desensitized to it.)

I walked across the room and kept punching buttons until I found a station playing classical music, so the people could more easily focus their thoughts and prayers on what was truly important to them at that life-changing moment. Nobody objected, and I felt a collective sigh of relief from the room.

The Trouble Is Not the Tool . . . It’s How You Use It

I don’t consider TV inherently bad (or good) . . . it’s just a tool that has been misused for so long by so many, that it seems normal. There is so much potential for good with the technology — education, inspiration and opportunity to help people with their personal development. There are a few good programs in these areas now (especially on public TV channels).

Release for Pent-up Emotions

It’s probably a healthy thing the way so many people are able to take out their aggressions watching sports events. People with strong competitive streaks find a harmless outlet for it with TV sports coverage. Why not? That’s better than taking it out on each other or working out aggressions on the highways.

TV and Politics

TV has forever changed the political process. Now, votes are purchased by huge piles of dollars. Policy and political promises are suddenly second fiddle to who has the largest advertising budget. Hopefully, voters recognize how it works and can see through the advertising budgets and get to the real issues.

“They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars”
- from the song, “Lives in the Balance” by Jackson Browne

“When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.” – Edward R. Murrow (1908 – 1965)


For others in less than ideal circumstances, TV offers a diversion. If someone is feeling terrible for whatever reason, TV can give them a break and let them get their minds off of what is troubling them. If it can help someone feel better, that’s a step in the right direction. There’s nothing wrong with pure and simple entertainment.

“There are days when any electrical appliance in the house, including the vacuum cleaner, offers more entertainment than the TV set.” – Harriet Van Horne

Watching On Purpose

The technology is evolving to make it easier to be more deliberate about what we watch. The ability to time-shift specific programs to watch on our own schedule is a huge step forward in allowing us to put technology to work for us, rather than us being a slave to it.

This helps to alleviate one of the biggest troubles with TV: how it consumes your valuable time. The average American watches TV over 4 hours per day. That’s about 30 hours per week!

If you broke the habit cold turkey, and suddenly had an extra 30 hours per week in your life, what would you do with it?

Read more books?
Learn to play a musical instrument?
Learn a new skill through a college course.
Home improvement projects?
Begin a new hobby you’ve always wanted to do but never “had the time?”
Start a home-based business?
Take more walks to stay in shape?
Sleep more?
Spend more quality time with your family and friends?
Go on a family outing?

“The car trip can draw the family together, as it was in the days before television when parents and children actually talked to each other.” – Andrew H. Malcolm

Cut the Cord

Last year, after returning from a six-month concert tour (with no TV), Janey and I decided to try an experiment and not reconnect the cable. Even though we thought we watched very little TV, we were amazed and thrilled to suddenly find the time for all kinds of things we’d always wanted to do, including many on the list above.

We never missed it, and we love the feeling of a home without the vibe of TV. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be amazed at how much more peaceful your home feels without TV.

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon (1940 — 1980)

“The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: ‘Is this real, or is this just a ride?’ And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, ‘Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.’ And we kill those people.” – Bill Hicks

Strung Out on the Tube

Many find it difficult to admit, but TV is a drug — an addictive narcotic that just happens to be socially acceptable . . . even expected!

It numbs the mind and dulls the senses.

“Television: chewing gum for the eyes.” – Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959)

It “thinks” for you, and eventually you forget how to do it on your own. Extended sequential thinking gets more and more difficult to sustain. TV shortens your attention span by continually feeding you quick images and short sound bites. This trains your mind to quickly lose patience with anything that requires concentration and prolonged attention.

It hammers away at your individuality by encouraging you to think and feel and want just like everyone else. It’s aimed at the bull’s eye of the masses. TV’s content is targeted to the lowest common denominator of the buying public. Is that a club you want to continue belonging to?

It encourages you (and trains you from the cradle) to be a consumer for life by making you want an endless string of products you otherwise wouldn’t need (or want).

It’s sneaky. It’s insidious. And already, after only sixty years since it’s invention, it’s virtually everywhere . . . all the time.

The images on TV shape our collective unconscious, for better of worse, and therefore our future.

How many inventions in the history of civilization have this much impact? This much power? This much potential?

How do you deal with something so pervasive . . . such an integral part of the lives of so many millions? Do you ignore it?

“When you watch television, you never see people watching
television. We love television because it brings us a world in
which television does not exist.” – Barbara Ehrenreich

For me, it’s a question of trying to understand the complexities of the TV issue, and then choosing deliberately what to watch . . . and when.


These days, Janey and I enjoy watching an occasional movie or a TV series on DVD. This works well for us since it completely eliminates the commercials, and we can watch on our own schedule.

We bought a few complete series on DVD. That’s a fun way to enjoy a program since you can watch the pilot episode first and then all the other episodes in the order they were created, all the way to the grand finale. It’s easier to enjoy the continuity and appreciate the artistry of the production when it’s experienced this way without commercial interruptions.

We appreciate the social comment and the imaginative story lines of the various Star Trek series:

Star Trek The Next Generation – The Complete Seasons 1-7

Star Trek Voyager – The Complete Seasons 1-7

Star Trek Deep Space Nine – The Complete Seasons 1-7

Star Trek Enterprise – The Complete Seasons 1-4

We also enjoy Star Gate SG-1.

Stargate SG-1 – Seasons 1-9

It’s great when the writers mix entertainment with themes that make you think.

For us, science fiction is a good way to stretch the imagination while pointing out the foibles of humanity, all in the name of entertainment. It’s rare to find programs that entertain, educate, inspire, offer social comment, and broaden your horizons at the same time. The programs linked above are well written and do all those things for us.

“Television has raised writing to a new low.” – Samuel Goldwyn (1882 – 1974)

And It’s Only Just Begun

In the history of man and our evolution of communication, the phenomenon of TV is in its infancy. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. It’s such a powerful instrument — crystal clear images and high-fidelity sound that can easily sway the mind and stir the emotions. It’s important to recognize the potential of such a tool.

TV is Not Black and White

It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s simply something powerful that’s important to be aware of.

We can use it to stir us up and entertain us.

We can use it to distract us, confuse us, or constipate our capacity for mental imagery.

We can use it on purpose, in moderation, and not confuse those manufactured outer images with our own mental images of what we truly want . . . or we can turn it off, get a life, and think entirely outside the box.

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Move to the country, and build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot ‘a peaches
Try to find Jesus on your own”
- from the song, “Blow up your TV” by John Prine

However you choose to include the phenomenon of TV in your life, do it on purpose. Don’t allow it to shape the direction and quality of your life accidentally, just because it’s always on and you are always in front of it.

Jewels of Time

The moments of your life are valuable . . . priceless . . . irreplaceable. Enjoy them. Be grateful for them. Use them deliberately to continually create your own best possible life. What an indescribable blessing it is to be able to choose your future by choosing your thoughts and the images you give your attention to.

The way you spend your moments is the way you spend your life.

Does TV add to the quality of your life?
Does it make you feel better?
Is TV good enough for you?

“Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television.” – David Letterman (1947 – )

If so, OK, there are no wrong answers to these questions. . . only choices to be made. It’s your life and your choice . . . just make sure you make the choice for yourself. And make it deliberately.

TV easily overwhelmes us with so many pre-packaged, artificially created desires, it can be difficult to recognize which ones are real.

Which ones are uniquely our own and come from deep inside, serving us by steering us toward our best possible life?

And which desires are artificially introduced in the shadows through that glowing, hypnotizing screen?

That’s the trouble with TV.

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.

Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

Related Songs
Fill o’ the Fair
This carnival of life is so rich and diverse, let’s squeeze every bit of happiness, joy, and delight as possible out of every single day.

Trash Our Treasures
People seem to have a history of awarding seemingly insignificant details with places of prominence in our lives, while ignoring or even destroying the most important aspects.

Time of Our Lives
Time is so fleeting, so elusive, it’s good to remember the importance and power of living right now.

Songs by Tupelo

Related Links

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10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose
Of all the self-help ideas I’ve come across through the years, this one has been the most helpful. For me, it’s been the Rosetta Stone of personal development techniques. After getting a handle on the idea of “purpose”, other areas of my life fell into place more easily.

Benefits of Music for Personal Development
All music is not created equally. This article takes a look behind the scenes to catch a glimpse of how the intent of the composer translates to the feeling evoked in the listeners. Many links are included to streaming mp3s. Celebrate life through music!

Reverence of Life Through Nature
An interesting chance meeting on the beach in Mexico with a shaman put into motion a stream of events that could never have been foreseen. This article explores the seeds of creativity, as well as the celebration of all life through nature.

Being Present through Sensuality
The idea is to occasionally turn off the senses in order to better tune into the aliveness that lies beyond them. The realization that there is something beyond the world of the five senses can provide an “aha” experience, especially at first. With the senses turned off (or even turned down), there remains a vibrant sense of aliveness – the world of feeling and the realm of being.

Articles by Tupelo

This is the end of the article entitled The Trouble with TV published by Tupelo Kenyon on March 23, 2007 at 7:34 pm | In Awareness, Law of Attraction, Manifestation - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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