It's that time of year again, when good, practicing Catholics celebrate Lent. Four forty days there is reflection, prayer, and self denial. I am not a good practicing Catholic, but I still celebrate the Lenten season.
This year I decided to give up a vice that likely harms me most: television and movies. I am of the TV age. As a kid I probably watched at least 8 hours a day. We'd get home from school and watch cartoons, the Monkeys and Brady Bunch reruns. Then we had dinner followed by Odd Couple, MASH, and Three's Company reruns. Then it was network prime time: One Day at a Time, more MASH, Barney Miller, Happy Days and the Friday night classics, Dallas and Falcon Crest.
Sometimes we would skip prime time for replays of classic movies on another local station. This is where I was introduced to Woody Allen movies, Alfred Hitchcock, and other classics.
Television for me became a constant companion. It's not just a place to be distracted or entertained, it's a place to find comfort, because by watching TV I don't have to think of myself and my own issues. I can divorce reality one show at a time. Sometimes, even now, I allow television, now in its streaming incarnation, to hold me in place when I should be dealing with other things. I admit, it's kind of like a drug that way. Instead of coping or doing, I sit and watch. Sometimes I lay and watch.
But now for the next few weeks I'm denying myself this vice. My choices for entertainment are still many. I still have plenty of news to read, a stack of books, and many neglected chores to be done. I'll be interested to see how I re-engage without TV, and if I make it the full forty days. I wonder if this self denial will change my habits. I have more than a few friends who live entirely without TV. Maybe I'll become like them. It's doubtful. But at least I'll (hopefully) have a bit of a mental cleanse.
Self denial I think is a good thing occasionally. It's a practice in discipline and takes us away from habits that may be harming us.