Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Step right up for a free demonstration of one of the most amazing inventions of the last century.
I have right here in my hand a miraculous device that is guaranteed to transform your life! This simple little gizmo will help you lose weight, get more exercise, and eat a healthier diet. It will improve your family life. It will make your children smarter. It will help you finish all those projects around the house you’ve been meaning to get to. And that’s not all; it will do wonders for your love life and help you maintain a happy marriage.
Yes, indeed—you truly can get all those benefits from this one astounding gadget. It fits easily in one hand. It’s so simple to operate that even a child can use it. And, best of all, ladies and gentlemen, you can try out this miracle device without spending a single dime! That’s right. There is absolutely no cost or obligation—because you already have one or more of these amazing little tools in your very own home.
This life-changing piece of technology is a television remote.
With just one quick motion of your thumb, you can play, rewind, change the channel, change the volume—or change your life. Each remote is equipped with a special button marked “power.” Power is precisely what it gives you, because with one click of that very button, what you can do is turn your TV set OFF. That one simple action can indeed give you all the benefits I’ve just described.
The trouble with television is that, once you begin watching a program, it sucks you in. This is the case whether it’s a high-quality drama, a vivid historical reenactment, a sitcom that makes an art form of inanity, or a documentary on the 87 kinds of spiders found in a tiny section of the Amazon rain forest.
You turn it on “just to see if there’s anything worth watching,” and you get hooked into something, and before you know it three hours have gone by and it’s bedtime. You were planning to call your sister, help your son get started on his science project, take a walk, and do a couple loads of laundry—but oh, well, it’s too late for any of that now.
A long time ago, when television was still in its youth, comedian Fred Allen said, “Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.”
It does seem only fair to point out that Fred Allen’s successful comedy career was almost entirely on radio. Nor is his clever comment entirely true. Television is a powerful medium. It can show us the intense reality of a dramatic news event, recreate history, move us, entertain us, and educate us.
It can also fill our evenings with mindless hours of mediocre entertainment. It can keep us sitting instead of doing something active—meanwhile bombarding us with commercials for high-calorie foods until we just have to go make some popcorn or grab a bag of corn chips. It can give us the illusion of spending time with people we love, when all we’re really doing is sitting together with our separate attention focused on the imaginary people on the screen instead of the real ones in the same room.
Now just in case there’s anyone reading this who might someday want to make a television movie of one of my books, let me be clear I’m not saying it’s bad to watch television. Just watch it deliberately and consciously. Decide what you want to see and make an active choice about it, instead of letting the TV set decide how you’ll spend your evening.
Remember—you’re the one who holds the miraculous device in your hand. Right there, that red button. That gives you the power. All you have to do is use it.