Friday, February 8, 2013

Cancellations and TV: The Sacred and The Secular

It started when I decided to take a picture of the UUCiA cancellation listing (the UUCiA is closed Friday and Saturday)...As you can see, the timing was pretty interesting.  It appeared on the screen for a second, just as Good Morning America was doing a piece called "Victoria's Secrets".
Kelly & Michael was on TV in the morning.
This reminded me of an experiment that Bill McKibben once wrote about in a book called The Age of Missing Information. McKibben was curious what he could learn about our culture from watching television.  So he went out and found what was the largest cable television system in the whole world (in Fairfax, Virginia at the time) – this cable television system had 100 channels.  So he had people from Fairfax tape everything that came across those 100 channels over a 24-hour period, then he took a few months out of his life and viewed it all – all 2400 hours of it.  He found that “The message that comes through that television all the time every day … is simple. It’s that ‘you’re the most important thing on earth. You’re the absolute center of the universe, you’re the heaviest object and everything is going to orbit around you.” 

Steve Harvey was on after that. Long show!
So today, I did an experiment of my own.  I was working alone, without McKibben's team of volunteers.  But I did manage to take a picture of the TV screen when our cancellation announcement came up.  So, this is a pretty random depiction of what was on TV (on channel 5 in Boston) between about 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. today.

I'm not sure I discovered that the message was "it's all about you".  I discovered that what's on TV is very fast-moving and loud.  It is much louder -- and more kinetic -- than my "real life". 

Steve Harvey continues with young people jumping rope.
There are also lots of bright colors.  It's sort of visually overwhelming to have the TV on for that long!  It's overwhelming for the ears, too, with all the volume.  I also discovered that there are a lot of people on TV telling you what they think, and what they think you should do (and think). 

That was the morning programming message that I got.  (For the record, I really like Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan; they are surprisingly charming.  I'm not so sure about Steve Harvey, who sometimes strikes me as a bit homophobic, and sometimes a bit sexist.  But he has his moments, too, I suppose.)

Mayor Menino gives a special statement about the storm.
Then, it was time for The View and a segment on unique Valentines that you can give to your loved ones. (With special "co-host of the day", Rick Springfield.)  It was fairly underwhelming, and of course mostly consumerist in its approach.  I do like Whoopi Goldberg.  The other women are okay... but I often find the show -- which started out as semi-provocative -- is pretty shallow most of the time.

After that, though, it was all about "BLIZZARD 2013".  The TV news has already dubbed it the blizzard-of-the-year, even though the winter isn't over yet.  It amazes me that the TV, from noon 'til now (as I type at around 7 p.m.) can talk about the weather, the weather, the weather, the weather!  Yes, I know that it's obviously the main thing on people's minds in these parts today. But. Wow.

Some Valentine's Day gift possibilities featured on The View.
I am pretty sick of this storm, and it's barely begun!  Sure, it's been snowing all day... but really it's not that bad -- yet.  It really is just starting to get heavier now.  I know it's going to be a major storm -- maybe even a blizzard in some places.  But still.  Enough, already!  Put something else on the TV! Please!

I'm happy to say that I was eventually reminded of something I truly love.  One of the UUCiA congregants suggested (online) that we share some favorite poems with each other.  This was lots of fun, and there were lots of great poems.  The one I thought of, based on today's experiment, was "Lightly", by my favorite poet: Audre Lorde. 

Here it is...

"Lightly", by Audre Lorde

Don't make waves
is good advice
from a leaky boat.

One light year is the distance
one ray of light can travel in one year and
thirty
light years away from earth
in our infinitely offended universe
of waiting
an electronic cloud announces our presence
fnally
to the unimpressable stars.

This is straight from a Scientific American
on the planet earth
our human signature upon the universe is an electric cloud
of expanding 30-year-old television programs
like Howdy Doody Arthur Godfrey
Uncle Miltie and Hulahoops
quiz shows and wrestling midgets
baseball
the McCarthy hearings and Captain Kangaroo.

Now I don't know what
a conscious universe might be
but it is interesting to wonder
what will wave back
to all that.
 



Here's a "futurecast" for 4:30 a.m. Saturday...
(I love that poem!)

What if some intelligent life out in the cosmos is seeing all of this? What would they make of it all?  What picture would they form of homo sapiens?

I think we seem pretty fearful. We're so worried! We're worried about the weather, to be sure.  We worried about our weight and appearance.  We're worried about our health.  We're worried about having a good enough car (or SUV).  We worried about pleasing others, especially our loved ones.

On the other hand... We do seem to smile a lot. And we like to laugh.  We have a sense of humor, I'll say that.  And we do like to keep others safe if we can.

A human interest interview on the school closings...
We're amazing, interesting beings (in my opinion), we homo sapiens!  I wish we did ourselves justice on TV, though.

Speaking of which... why have I been inside in front of a TV screen all day?  Good question.  I'll have to get out and enjoy the snow tomorrow.

It's been interesting to see our congregation's cancellation announcement (along with many other congregations' announcements) next to all of these TV images.  You just cannot separate the sacred and the secular in this world.  Maybe it's better that way.  After all, everything is sacred in its source.  And congregations are just as down-to-earth and perfectly imperfect as anything else in life.

And now, a "futurecast" for 7:00 a.m. Saturday...
It's like that great Serbian proverb: "Be humble for you are made of earth. Be proud for you are made of stars."

So those were pretty much my musings for the day, TV-wise.


Ho hum, two feet of snow... 30+ inches possible.
Also on my mind today was, will we have a worship service this Sunday morning?  I don't know the answer to that yet.  We'll have to wait and see how things play out.  If we do have a worship service this Sunday, it will be an inter-generational service (for all ages) about "Standing on the Side of Love".  If you are thinking about coming this Sunday, check our website for updates.  Also, as of 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning, there will be a message on our voicemail about the service, and whether it will happen: call 978-475-4454.

I really did enjoy sharing poetry online with people from the congregation.  It was a nice way for us to connect, each of us snowbound in our own homes for the day.  It helped to make up for all the silliness on TV!

So why not share a couple of the selections?  A congregant chose this one, no doubt inspired by today's  weather:

Finally, got the commercials... Hit the car commercial jackpot.
"Blizzard", by William Carlos Williams
 
Snow falls:
years of anger following
hours that float idly down --

the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes --
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there --
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.


Why not one more poem shared by a congregant?  This one is about a lot of things... among other things, it talks about turning the TV off:

"State of the Union, 2003", by Sam Hamill


A different car commercial, about 30 minutes later. *sigh*
I have not been to Jerusalem,
but Shirley talks about the bombs.
I have no god, but have seen the children praying
for it to stop. They pray to different gods.
The news is all old news again, repeated
like a bad habit, cheap tobacco, the social lie.

The children have seen so much death
that death means nothing to them now.
They wait in line for bread.
They wait in line for water.
Their eyes are black moons reflecting emptiness.
We've seen them a thousand times.

Soon, the President will speak.
He will have something to say about bombs
and freedom and our way of life.
I will turn the TV off. I always do.
Because I can't bear to look
at the monuments in his eyes.