Cat commented on my ‘making time’ blog with an observation about the value of entertainment and the need to recognise that. My immediate reaction was to want to argue, but I couldn’t figure out how to say it succinctly. On closer inspection, I wasn’t even sure what point I wanted to make. It took quite a bit of figuring out, but we’re there now.
I value entertainment. I love any kind of live performance, I’m fond of film watching, an avid reader, keen on wandering round museums, galleries and events. I listen to the radio a lot – both music and spoken word. I really don’t like television. Some of that is to do with speed – I read, and think quickly and a lot of TV stuff is just too slow for my tastes. It’s also very passive, it’s so easy to sit there and have TV happen to you, without really thinking about it. And this is where my serious issues start to kick in.
Good art, in any form, should be entertaining. For me, being entertained includes being made to laugh and smile, having warm fuzzy moments, being moved emotionally and being inspired to think. I am also aware that for a significant number of people, the ideas of entertainment and thinking are wholly incompatible. I’ve listened to debates on art programs on this very subject. The idea that in a blockbuster film, what we want is a mindless distraction involving no mental effort while pretty, trivial and distracting things happens for our amusement. For me, good entertainment is engaging. It demands something – your attention at the very least. It stays with you, it adds to your life. It isn’t merely a method for killing a few hours.
This is where I think my issue with television really lies. For so many people, entertainment and relaxation are assumed to be the same. That whole ‘veg out in front of the telly’ thing. I want my entertainment to be stimulating and engaging, and my rest to be… well, restful, and I don’t think television does either very well. That barrage of sound and noise – especially when there are adverts – is not really conducive to rest. Most people don’t sleep enough. Actual, sleeping rest is far better than vegged in front of TV rest. Curling up in a warm place with a warm person, or a warm cat, or whatever lends itself, is far more soothing and relaxing.
Again, this is a balance issue. It’s about how we understand the resources available to us, and how we then deploy them. I find I want more of the extremes – I want high levels of emotion and though provoking in my entertainment, and I want deep peace, calm and rest in my rest time. The pagan hat does come into this, because it’s all to do with my own relationship with inspiration. I prize inspiration. Experiencing the creativity of others is part of that, for me, and entertainment is the usual medium of sharing. I don’t want muzak and wallpaper, I want experiences that drip with awen and magic. When we make entertainment into something safe and easy to veg out with, when we make it banal, we deny the possibility for wonder and inspiration. That feels very wrong to me.
I’ve seen my share of daytime television. I have fleeting contact with TV content at other people’s houses, and most of it fills me with despair. So much of it is there to pass the time, or to sell us stuff, or both. Yes, there are good programs in amongst the dross – my son loves David Attenborough’s work, and that’s a fine example of TV worth watching. I heard a guy who writes TV drama the other day saying that he never thinks about the social impact of his work or how it may affect people’s expectations of the medical profession. All he does is write good drama. As though drama exists in a vacuum and doesn’t interact with the rest of reality. The bard in me wanted to write nasty satires about him. Entertainment does contribute to how people perceive the world. If we make it cheap, tacky, misleading, banal, mindless… that’s what we feed to our own souls. Television is not the only guilty medium, by any stretch of the imagination. But we can choose to switch off, walk away, pull the pagan hat down over our ears and head off in search of something better.