I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that for as much Netflix and/or Hulu as I watch, I end up restarting episodes entirely too often. Like, almost “on every day of the week that ends in –y”, too often. But that’s what happens when you fall asleep in front of the TV all the time. Well, that, and also that Netflix conveniently continues to play episode after episode after the falling asleep. Which means that when I get around to trying to pick up where I left off the night before, I’m required to do some NASA-level calculation to figure out where I actually did leave off.
Yes, I said NASA-level. Sure, bounce-landing a robot on Mars from 225 million kilometers away is sorta difficult, but is it as hard as figuring out which chapter of House of Cards to re-watch based on only the episode description? I’m not so sure.
As to constantly having to asses my place in the episode guide, I’ve got no one to blame here but myself. I stay up too late, refuse to admit that at 43 years old my body could probably use more than 5 and a half hours of sleep a night, and basically make poor life choices at 1 AM. That said? Ultimately, I’m too committed to watching shows these days.
I imagine a lot of people wouldn’t fault me for that last one. This is, after all, supposed to be The “new” Golden Age of Television. And, I mean, there are comic book shows now! On TV! Good ones! As someone who still feels feels the bumpy scars of the Spider-Man and Hulk shows from the late 70’s, believe me, it’s like being born anew.
(There’s always a “but”, right?)
But this is not who I want to be. Being a fan first and a creator second is not who I want to be with this life.
Because as Thoreau put it in Walden, Netflix is bad.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t quite say that. Rather, the pertinent quote, the one you all know, is,
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation
That’s the big one, the one I’ve held in my head since back when I was a wet behind the ears kid in college taking Philosophy 100. It’s the line I’m most apt to bring to mind every couple of years when I take a moment to do a little shoe-gazing about what I have accomplished and have yet to achieve with this life.
Thoreau would further write in Walden:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived
This excerpt, of course, always leads me to imagining my own end of life, where I’m huddled and exhausted at the base of an erupting Mt. Doom, along with my good friend and Master, Frodo Baggins. We’ll look back on our journey from The Shire with pride, and I’ll take comfort in knowing that I was there to help Master Frodo carry the immense weight of that hateful Ring1.
Except, as I dragged myself off the couch at 3:30 AM last Thursday morning and tried to figure out how many episodes of Community I’d sleep through, I realized the truth of my reality hadn’t become quite as monumental as that “Lord of the Rings” moment. I mean, yes, I have a great job that I work said butt off at, a fair bit of responsibility, and a family I couldn’t be prouder of, so I shouldn’t really complain much. But I have hopes and dreams that entail becoming much more than “The Lord of The Couch’s Butt Groove”.
And if you can’t see the “quiet desperation” in being champion of your own ass crease, well, congratulations, you’re either actually Homer Simpson (which, admittedly, has it’s advantages) or your one of his many, many, MANY devotees.
Believe it or not, I’d rather lean into Thoreau than Homer here.
The tricky thing about Thoreau’s quiet desperation is that it’s not only quiet, but sneaky like a five year old with a heist plan for the cookie jar. It’s an insidious, stealthy thing that blossomed when I innocently binge watched Arrow two winter breaks ago on a brief pause between working on manuscripts, and eventually snowballed into a nightly TV watching habit that compels me to take my assigned place on the basement couch for three hours every night before eventually nodding off and letting the Apple TV autopilot me til dawn.
For me, it’s no way to live. It’s more just a really good way to wait around until I die. And that’s kind of the opposite of My Big Plan.
I want to make it very clear that I’m NOT judging anyone who does enjoy their nightly “shows” (as my Grandmother would call them). The last thing the world needs is another sanctimonious dirtwipe tsking loudly in unfounded self-righteousness because “OMG, while you were wasting your time watching The Housewives of Neverland last night, I was speed-reading Tolstoy and hand-weaving macramé doilies for my Etsy shop.”
Listen, I swear I’m not being that guy. You do you, man, and be happy doing it! There’s nothing wrong with DVR’ing 17 hours of programming a week. If you love it, I encourage it!
But a few years ago I decided I wanted to be remembered for stringing words together into stories that people (hopefully) liked. And I made great progress on that, slowly, on plodding step in front of the other. But then, you know, the slow creep of quiet desperation. One day not long ago, I quit writing new stuff, and instead started waiting for life to happen on its own. And then IPAs Thursdays popped up and, I started reporting for Hulu duty nightly, and, well, look…building up the butt groove in my basement sectional ain’t getting the life I strive for quite done. I’ve gone from being the guy who was always working on something he loved to the guy who’s always streaming something in HD.
And I’m done with that.
So, this? This post? This is me hitting “Start from the Beginning” on my life quest. This is me turning my back on that “quiet desperation”, rolling up my sleeves, and getting back to work.
This is me letting the couch cushions get back some of their old factory condition.
This is getting the DVR to work for me, instead of the DVR working me.
That’s not to say I won’t still watch my comic books shows. I, mean, I want more Arrow and Flash and Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and the only way I get them is by watching what’s out there. But from now on, my weekday evenings are for writing or reading or plotting or revising. For Becoming What I Might Have Been and insuring that when I finally reach The End of All Things, maybe there will be a Hobbit there, proud of all I’ve accomplished.
1Okay, so I’m not actually a Hobbit, nor a gardener, and I really hope never to see Mt. Doom.