For the past six weeks, I’ve been recovering from a major surgery.
The experience has been made easier because, for one thing, the procedure was performed by the doctor considered to be the best in the world at it. And my post-operative care has been superb; so has the support I have received from family members, friends and colleagues.
Of course, one of the reasons why my recovery is progressing quickly and smoothly is that the operation has, in the space of not much more than a generation, gone from being very risky to fairly routine. That is a result of science and technology: My surgeon and some of her peers have dramatically improved the techniques used to perform that particular surgery. Improvements in her technique have also been made possible by the instruments used in the hospital, and in my particular operation: They bear little resemblance to the machines on Marcus Welby, M.D. and other medical dramas I saw when I was growing up.
That brings me to the one "miracle" of modern technology I haven’t had during my recovery: television.
No, I haven’t been whiling away my idle days on some uncharted isle (unless you’re such an Uptown Girl or Guy that you consider Long Island to be remote!). I have remained ensconced in my Big Apple abode, in the bustling borough of Queens. And, no, we haven’t had a power outage like the one that plagued some of my neighbors for more than a week three years ago.
I am without the "tube" by choice. When the government ordered that all viewers would have digital TV or no TV at all, I opted out. I know, I could have gotten, with a government-issued coupon, a converter box for less than a Southampton summer resident spends on a pair of flip-flops. Or, I could have subscribed to a cable or satellite service for not much more than that per month.
However, as the date for the change-over drew closer, I became more determined to try living without the "idiot box." I made this decision knowing full well that I would soon undergo the surgery I have just experienced, and knowing how much time I would spend recovering from it.
At various times in my life, I have subscribed to cable or satellite services. The result was always the same: Out of the 500 (or however many) channels, I could find three or four, maybe five, offering programming that interested me. And, after a few months, those channels would repeat the episodes or movies I’d seen during the previous months.
The sad part is that what I’ve described is a better state of affairs than what is to be found on "regular" network TV. However biased some of the films and programs I saw on cable or satellite TV were, at least some of them exhibited more understanding of economics, history or the cultures they were depicting than what one sees on Faux, I mean Fox, News or the news programs of ABC, NBC, CBS and, sometimes, PBS.
Plus, I’ve gotten to an age at which one doesn’t miss pretty faces nearly as much as one does in one’s youth. Sure, Chris Cuomo and Matt Lauer are cute, as are the escapees on Prison Break. However, the plots of the latter program actually seem less convoluted and more believable than much of what is uttered as "news" or even "commentary" on most programs with pretensions about informing and uplifting the public.
I figured that allowing my mind to fill with such stuff wouldn’t help my recovery any. My hypothesis, it seems, is bearing out: Today I visited my doctor, who said that I’m "recovering remarkably well and quickly," given the surgery I’ve had.
Perhaps my home’s new ambience has something to do with it, too. There’s a bit more clutter, as I haven’t been able to spend the energy to organize, and I can’t lift anything weighing more than ten pounds, at least for the time being. However, something else makes up for its lack of physical beauty: a calmness I never knew possible.
If you have ever gone deep into a wooded or other uninhabited area, you know how quiet (sometimes disquietingly so, for city gals like me!) it is at night. No city street is ever that placid or peaceful, even after the stores, offices and clubs have closed and people have gone to bed. The urban scene I’ve just described is the best comparison I can make to the way my house felt when I temporarily turned off the television. The natural setting I’ve depicted is how my home now feels, by comparison, now that I haven’t "tuned in" for two months.
My physical recovery, I believe, is not the only thing that has benefitted from this change in my environment. I feel now that I can more fully concentrate on what I read and write. (It will be interesting to see whether I continue that after I return to my regular job next week.) And, some friends have said that I seem "more present" and happier. I know the latter is true; I trust their judgment on the former.
I don’t know whether I will never, ever watch television again, as I don’t predict the future. However, if the surgery I underwent and the subsequent care I have received will make living in my body more tenable, I feel that forsaking television just might be helping me to find the life of my mind and spirit to be more fulfilling. And, I suspect, it could make me less susceptible to micro- and macro- forms of groupthink — which, after all, is what helped to bring this economy and country into the mess it’s in, and ensured that too many people would go along with it.
Perhaps switching off is not the solution. But, for me, it seems not to have been a bad start.