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Video Killed the Radio Star

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Those of us who aren’t headed to the Gorge this weekend might be tempted to pass some time in front of our televisions. In fact, according to some studies, the average American spends four hours a day, or 28 hours a week, glued to the tube. But if we listen to the wise words of our favorite front-man, we may find that this seemingly innocuous hobby might be an unfortunate way to burn our days away.

In several songs, Dave talks about the ways in which we are influenced by the messages that we receive from our shiny signal transmitters. “Shotgun,” for example, asserts that if we are “watching the world on TV, there must be something better on.” This same theme occurs in “Minarets,” where at a recent show, alternate lyrics state that, “TV’s on, the fox he explains it. Wearing a tie, like Dad, he speaks it,” which, to me, alludes to the authoritative nature of certain channels, and how easy it may be for viewers to take what they see as truth, when really, we need to question our information sources very carefully, these days. From past Twitter posts, I remember that Dave isn’t exactly a fan of Fox News, and I think it’s really clever how he was able to play with his lines, make a point, and offer a double entendre all at once! He’s a crafty one!

“Satellite,” which has been played live every year for the past 19 years, and is one of the band’s most popular radio hits, largely deals with the ills of the small screen. The phrase, “and the calm away by the storm is chasing,” could well depict the anxiety and fear caused by too many images of war, crime, and disaster. The famous expression, “everything good needs replacing,” may describe the relentless commercialism present within the television industry. And when Dave says, “While I spend these hours, five senses reeling, I laugh about the world in my satellite eyes,” I think that he is referring to the desensitization that can occur by witnessing everything from a distance. Instead of being present and available to how we are feeling, we become robotic and impersonal. We watch tragedy after tragedy unfold until our human emotions of sadness and compassion are replaced with complacency and indifference. Oh, and a need for the latest item that will, once and for all, turn us into beautiful and perfect beings!

Perchance to balance out the national average, my husband and I disposed of our TV sometime in the last year, and replaced it with a gorgeous ceramic vase. I can’t tell you how much more uplifting it is to look across the room at a piece of art, than at a dusty old box. This may sound extreme, and surely won’t work for everyone. Perhaps a more balanced approach would be that of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who shares that, “Watching the evening news, I know it is my story. Breathing in calmly, I hold us all in compassion.” This is my aspiration. But for now, I will sit across from my colorful mosaic decoration, listening to Dave, and feeling the peace. To me, that is the best of what’s around.

Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.

Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self

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