Friday, February 11, 2011

Television, DVRs, and Getting What We Want

During dokusan this week , this idea came to mind about not always getting what we want. 

Now, I'm a grown up so while I may not live it all the time, I do know that I can't always get what I want.  Yes, it's a seductive fantasy, but realistically it has its drawbacks.

In trying to communicate my comfort with this position on the matter, I equated it as like watching tv with no commercials.

Traditionally, you turn on the tv and flip through the channels looking for something to watch.  If you don't find something that interests you, too bad, deal with it or turn it off.  This is life: you're born, you wander through life and you either deal with it, or (as the comparison implies) you off yourself.

There are programs we don't like and commercials for things we'll never buy.  These are like the hard times in life.

The good times are our favorite programs, we just can't get enough of them.  Sometimes we even tape them so we can watch them again and again.

The widespread use of the DVR has changed all of that.  In our household, we watch our favorite shows off of the DVR so much that we don't even know when they normally come on.  Even though we have dozens upon dozens of channels, after scanning the few we normally watch and finding nothing we go straight to the DVR to catch up on what we've missed.  While we watch, we have the ability to fast forward through commercials, skipping over the obnoxious part of watching television, the part that pays the bills so that our favorite shows can even be made!

We can search to find when our shows will be on so that we can record that new series we've been hearing so much about.  Some shows and movies are even available instantly on demand.

In our constant struggle with handling life as it is now, our entertainment has led to this.  How many of us would like so much for life to be this way: summoning our favorite parts of life and skipping through all of the bad.

This is the fertile field of context where my thought sprouted.

There are two types of commercials, those that sell products and those that promote other shows.  Skipping through the commercials, we lose out on both. 

Yes, we've all seen that one commercial a million times and blow it off each time, thinking "who would want that?" or in the case of car commercials, "who can afford that?!"  So we become cynical about these types of commercials and ignore them.  But every once in a while something does appeal: a sale here, a new product there.  Look what we would have missed out on if we hadn't seen the commercial?

There are commercials of the other type, promoting shows, that just anger me in how mindless the product they are promoting is, reinforcing this feeling, "that show's still on? who the hell enjoys that?"  I'd love to be rid of these.  But what about that commercial for that show I've not heard of?  "Hey, that sounds appealing. I should watch that."  Once again, I would have missed out on what may become my new favorite show.

This is what life is like.  There are things we want to watch and sometimes the things we need to watch are mixed in with what we don't want.  Sometimes life can even go the other way and get unbalanced like suffering through the Super Bowl just to see that commercial everyone will be talking about on Monday.

Some good examples of how this shows up in life... hmm.   Well how many of us are happy and in good relationships (or even happy and single)?  This can't possible be the first relationship you've been in, or at least the first person you've liked.  How many times have you been rejected?  But now look at you, would you have found that perfect someone if you were still stuck in that one sided abusive relationship with that narcissist you dated a few years back? (If they're reading this with you, just smile and nod, exclaiming "of course not!" if you're a little confused at this point.  Trust me, that's the right answer)

Or what about that job that didn't work out?  Nobody wants a crumby job where they perform so poorly out of displeasure that they get fired.  Even getting rejected from several job interviews has it's upside in that you have the opportunity to improve.

I myself, have dealt with these things.  So many unpleasant occurrences that have shaped me into the well rounded and grounded person that I am today.  I have so many interests that I wouldn't have even dreamt of if one thing or another had gone the way I wanted them to.

Now's the point where you expect me to tell you to get rid of the DVR and stop wanting things to go your way, right?

Well that's the funny thing about Buddhism.  The DVR, and desires, are alright if we remain aware of what exactly they are and what we may be missing out on by indulging them.  We have every right to want things, even those that we don't need.  When they cause trouble is when we begin to feel entitled to them, when they get in the way of enjoying what we have now.  If it helps to consider what others have to do without, then go for it.  Maybe give up using the DVR so much and suffer through a few commercials?  It couldn't hurt, might even learn something.  But neither of these things are asked of you.

So many Buddhists talk about extinction of desire or craving, but that's not truly possible.  Even that itself is a desire.  What the truth of the matter is, the way to satisfaction and shaking the grip suffering has on your life is the extinction of the hold desire has on you. 

Take control back.

I find irony in this coming holiday.  Society tells us to give candy to those society tells to be skinny.  With this in mind, is it alright to desire another piece of chocolate? Yes.  Accept it as natural, but don't think the world revolves around you eating or not eating it.  If you eat it, eat it; if you don't move on.

This is Zen, accept the obstacle, make a decision and move on.  This is the key to happiness.

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