Uh . . . it’s not viewing that is forming my soul. I gave up watching television several years ago, sort of by accident. I was already upset by how I woke up every morning thinking about murder after watching reruns of Law and Order. I’d also had a spiritual director for ten years who didn’t watch television. He had a sense of peace I needed.
But it happened all at once in a period of mental and emotional overload. After being overseas for two weeks (watching no television), I came home to two crises—the death of a close relative and a shocking revelation about another. Processing these events required significant downtime. I sat on our back porch and stared a lot. As I recovered from these things, I still couldn’t interface with the chaos of watching television. I stayed on the porch reading and felt rejuvenated with a spaciousness of mind. As the days and months and years passed without TV, I didn’t miss it at all.
The benefits have been enormous. It has formed my soul in that I’m more able to welcome a stranger (I talk more to my neighbors), celebrate and worship (I enjoy more sunsets and we take more walks), and think better (I read more good books and can concentrate better on difficult ones). I can now clean up my kitchen without rushing and we go to bed about 9 PM. I feel that years have been added to my life.
In my book Abundant Simplicity, I tell the above story and explain that people might fast from certain media in layers (pp 128-129). For example, my one exception is watching PBS’s Masterpiece. We also rent or borrow from the library DVDs but try to intentionally choose ones featuring a redemptive plot line, taken from a classic novel, offering characters that stimulate us to love and good works, or offering settings and cultures we haven’t experienced.
If you were to fast from television or some other media, what might it look like?
Would you perhaps do so in layers? What might be the benefits to you?
Jan Johnson is the author of twenty books including Invitation to the Jesus Life and Abundant Simplicity and a thousand articles and Bible studies. She speaks at retreats and conferences, and teaches (adjunct) at Azusa Pacific University and Hope International University. Also a spiritual director, Jan holds a D. Min. in Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction. She lives with her husband in Simi Valley, California. You can visit her at JanJohnson.org.