Necessary pap

It’s a rainy, lazy feeling Sunday morning. The sort of day people stay indoors catching up on their reading or settling down to watch a DVD while outside the rain patters down. Sunday’s are indoor days anyway, in my life at least, outside of the occasional excursion to the local cafe for a cooked brekky and a good coffee.

This morning I have the Foxtel guy here. He’s outside in the rain as I write this, wiring the house so that I can get my cable TV. I may occasionally express reservations about how real life has been subverted by the pleasures of consumerism, and I despise Murdoch (part owner of Foxtel), but ultimately I find it difficult to live without my share of consumerism.

It’s a curious thing, though not altogether surprising. I’m not an ascetic. I don’t believe in asceticism, and indeed have little time for the notion of depriving myself for good (or bad) political reasons. I need to be able to watch the footy or cricket or soccer as it happens, and preferably in HD. The thought of missing out on the latest episodes of GoT or Madmen (as I have been) fills me with an impotent frustration, in part at least exacerbated by the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO, in the very modern vernacular). Everyone else is doing this, why aren’t I?

There’s nothing wrong with sitting down to watch your favourite programs on TV, or to spend a few idle hours watching your footy team run around. It’s a part of life. The issue is balance and perspective – manage that and you’re fine.

I’m in my new home and still settling into it. I’m still settling into a new life and routine. There’s much still to settle, and much more still to be attended to. One of the things I’ve missed is the simple and mindless pleasure of sitting down on my couch after dinner dinner and for an hour or two escape into another world portrayed on-screen. It’s a way of tuning out, and quite possibly necessary to re-adjust your mental settings.

The problem arises when it becomes too much a part of life, and not just an occasional escape from it. Speaking for myself I become thoroughly immersed in some of my favourite programs, and the evidence is here in these pages. Quality entertainment is a bit like quality food. It’s more than sustenance, it leaves you with something to go on with. For me watching Madmen, or something similar, activates my mind and sets me thinking and wondering, no bad thing. It’s not my life though. These are addendums, pleasant little footnotes. What I see on-screen is fiction, or at best somebody else’s reality – but I have a life too, my reality. Let’s not overlook that.

It’s something that does get overlooked – or rather, is never really considered. We live our pressure lives, working, paying bills, providing for the family, the occasional ritual outing, and in between sitting in front of the box. It becomes a routine, day after day, week after week, month and year after year. We forget to live, to seek, to grow, to become. We continue on this linear path, a few bumps along the way, but comfortably using up time while rarely veering from the path.

This is the thing: if you know that then you’re probably safe. It’s rare these days though, I think. Seems to me that society has lost the ability to step aside from itself to see it as it is. Instead society is increasingly incestuous. Society – and by that I mean lifestyle as much as I mean how we fit and relate together – has become inward looking. It’s easy to see why. It’s comfortable. We complain, but generally we’re well off. We watch our lifestyle programs about food and renovation and concoct the recipes we want to make (if we’re not mere voyeurs) and the home projects we want to start on. We escape into the weekly rituals watching the programs we know we can’t miss. There’s no cause to stray from this easy and unreflective way forward, especially when we’re encouraged by advertising and magazines and gushing features and profiles.

What is missing is reflection. And perspective. There’s nothing wrong with these things as long we know what they are and where they sit. How often do people stop to consider that though? It’s much easier to simply consume what is served up as if it is our entitlement. And do it all again next week.

Maybe I’m being unfair, and I suspect that I’m a bit of a relic. I can’t be any other way than I am. To explore, investigate and wonder is second nature to me, and I cherish it. Perhaps some of that is innate, but I think I also benefitted from being part of a generation encouraged to question. That seems an anachronism today. If there is one great criticism of society today it is that it’s too uncritical. I have no doubt that even as our lifestyle has improved society (and the politics that define it) has sharply deteriorated. It impacts upon public discourse, and in results in the low quality pap we are fed by our politicians and media.

Everything is pap in its own way, even Anzac Day yesterday is a different sort of pap. Bread and circuses. We live by events and occasions, and we dress them up in gaudy colours and with every conceivable bell and whistle, losing as we do so the true essence of these things – who knew there was an Anzac flame?

I don’t want to sound bitter or sour. I vent my frustrations here, but out in the world I keep mum mostly about such issues, while still pushing the same causes I believe in. I’m not silent, but I guess I’ve learned to speak in the language of the day. I’m no wowser either. I enjoy these things too – that’s why I have the Foxtel guy here this morning. Pap is not all bad. A lot of it is desirable at least, if not necessary. Put it in its place though.

I can’t wait to catch up with the GoT. If I can manage it this afternoon then I’ll be laying on my couch doing just that. But I want to think to, and wonder, and believe that this is not all there is, that are many wonderful adventures still be discovered.


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