I am staying at an elderly relative’s place. She keeps busy with crafts and Italian classes, cross word puzzles, and electronic jigsaws and patience games to exercise the brain and pass the time. She has an active social life, does tai chi and gardens, reads and goes to movies with friends. And watches TV. My next door neighbor, a still older woman, widowed, is visited regularly by her large and attentive family. She no longer is up to gardening, and her social circle has been more than decimated by the grim reaper. When she is alone at home, which is most of the time, she watches TV.
I used to live in a block of flats on a surf beach on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. In the flat below us lived an old retired couple. From what they described, and as evidenced by their few mementos, they used to have a busy life, with hobbies such gardening, painting and sewing. The husband still would go for short walks along the waterfront, but his wife was semi crippled. Basically her life was spent sitting in a chair watching TV. I have found some enchanting videos in this YouTube Channel , please check one of that below:
I also have spent many hours, days and weeks swallowed by the TV. As a child I differed from my siblings in that often I preferred to curl up with a book, but as a young adult, unemployed, unenthusiastic about life, I burrowed into watching day time soaps: The Bold and the Beautiful, Dallas reruns, the Days of Our Lives. (The irony of this last choice was the that theme song should have alerted me to the way the way I was letting life drip through my fingers: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.” ) Eventually I cured the addiction by only ever watching the story-lines I already knew, and muting when new story lines came up, until all the stories I was watching fizzled out. Time went by and I began to spend some years working a full week for money, but remained unenthusiastic about life, so life was work, and eating, sleeping, reading, and watching TV. Often all at once.
Television is our surrogate life. We watch imaginary relationships. They become part of our inner world. We discuss the characters during tea-breaks at work, and hang out to see them again, even lust over them. We feel a personal loss when a series end, as if mourning the death of the characters we have become attached to. We may even be nostalgic for the TV sets we have been mentally living in. Think of the bar in Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”, the well set up apartments of Friends, Jerry Seinfeld’s insular world, made more appealing by the fact that Jerry Seinfeld the actor is acting Jerry Seinfeld the character.
This idea that we are relating to a “real person” is a large part of the appeal of reality TV, the Batchelor, the Biggest Loser, the Kardashians etc. I am going to skip over the darker worlds of Breaking Bad, Dexter, and the various vampire Goth fantasies, which all happened outside my TV watching periods. The previous era of Coronation Street also slipped past me, though the sound of it echoed through my childhood dreams. But the fantasies of Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched all captured me at some time. And I was drawn in by my father’s penchant for Star-trek. As for that perennial personality, Dr Who, he did not fully claim me, though I constantly flirted, and I can understand the appeal of any world but this that we endure from day to day. However I am glad to say I escaped the life of those whose time revolves around sci-fi reruns.
Part of the appeal of watching television is the satisfaction one gets by vicariously solving the problems and dilemmas laid out in front of us, resolving the stress we have been purposely put into. As if WE have achieved something! Our emotions are massaged and stroked, pulled this way and that by flickers of light on a screen. It is all unreal, yet it starts to live in our heads. It’s bizarre. And sad. We may not see that for ourselves, but truly, if you stand back and observe someone else spending a major part of their life sitting in front of the flat screen, do you not feel pity for that person? And yet… is it so very different from how we interact with the “real world”?
The yogis would say not. The yogi through the spiritual vision of transcendental wisdom sees that the forms of the world are not real. They are a misty collection of atoms, more space than solid, that come together for some time and then disperse, just as the pixels on the screen light up and die down again, shaping and reshaping temporary forms on the screen. They are impermanent and ever changing. Even the mountains are eventually worn down to dust. And how much more flimsy is a human body, that is in constant flux, with cells dying and being replaced, atoms and molecules passing through like water through a waterfall, so that within 5 years the entire body is replaced, atom by atom. This very idea is factually proven and elaborated very nicely by Spiritual Teacher Jagad Guru in this video below. Then even that changing waterfall dries up for good within 100 years. In fact the yogi sees the entire world as being like a TV studio, with changing sets for each new program, and changing roles and costumes and makeup. It is all ephemeral.
Such yogis and ancient yoga texts or scriptures say there is another world, imperishable and more promising than that of Dr Who or Star Trek, Cheers or Game of Thrones. That other world is distinguished from the world of temporary forms by its permanence and stability. The forms in that world are not separate from the reality of things. They are not temporary. They actually exist. In this material world nothing has an enduring existence except for the most basic and subtle energy which is the substrata of the material world. That material energy exists, but it is always morphing from one state, or form, to another. The only thing that holds it all together is life. Without life, there would be no energy. This fact is recognized in an emerging scientific viewpoint called Bio-centrism, which upsets the efforts of those in the science community who aim to prove that life comes from matter. Bio-centrism argues that matter in fact comes from life.
The yogis have always said said this. Matter is an energy provided to clothe those who wish to play out imaginary scenarios, playing different characters at different times in their life, and even more widely differing characters in past and future lives. This is not so unlike those of us who spend hours immersing ourselves in obviously imaginary identity or scenarios on TV, or for that matter in in movies, or science books or novels etc.
We think we are living in a “real” world, solid and enduring, but even here the things we become attached to only exist temporarily, the relationships we develop are, in the bigger picture, fleeting. Because we don’t realize this we become totally immersed in them. And then death comes. At that moment this life’s attachments are severed, even more surely than when you switch off the TV off at night. And in the next life, just like in a new TV series, there is another set of characters, another set of parents, another set of scenery, where you once again get attached, develop relationships, find a partner, have children, grow old and die again—and again enter a new series, new parents, new partners, new kids, and another death at the end. The plots are usually fairly standard, though there are many variations, some more “exciting” than others – as the old curse goes, “may you live in interesting times”. But whether the plot is that of a refugee child who sees her family killed around her, and grows up exploited and poor in a foreign land, or a young princess growing up in wealth and safety, it will not last.
To the yogi, living out this material life, playing a temporary character in a temporary “reality show”, thinking it is the real thing, is a pitiable situation. We stake our entire lives on this supposed reality. Our hearts become captivated and are broken each time the unreality of it all seeps through, and always at the time of death. Always! That is, unless we have seen through the “TV” glass; unless we have realized that this place we are in, this material realm, is just a 3 D TV show, not the real thing; and unless we have been let into the open secret, that there is a real eternal world, with eternal personalities, of which we are constitutionally a citizen. This material world is a very flawed version of an eternal reality.
It is possible to re-establish our citizenship in that eternal realm. There is a perpetual reality, beyond this shifting world of temporary forms. It is up to each of us to seek out that reality. We need to be willing to consider these ideas when they are presented, not being overly cynical, but also considering carefully, not just accepting everything on face value. What is needed is realization, not just easy agreement.