by Dean Sangalis, Colorado Review Editorial Assistant
Before I moved to Colorado, I considered leaving my television behind. I wanted to break my sense of continuity, throw a wrench in the cyclical nature of routine, and the TV was an obvious source of time-suck, a passive activity that conflicted with my creative pursuits, specifically writing. While packing my things, this consideration remained idle but present; abandoning my television called for a revolution in my life that I wasn’t quite ready to undergo, despite certain directive plot devices.
While cleaning out my things from my parents’ basement, my temporary living quarters, I found a collection of pages, a zodiac commentary photocopied from some source that my mom couldn’t recall. She had copied them for kicks shortly after my sister was born, and there were pages for each member of my family professing the typical info: the particular astrological significance of your birth date, famous people born on the same day, a synopsis of your positive and negative potential qualities, your compatible love interests, etc. Also included was a cryptic picture that supposedly embodied your birthday, or at least expressed something formidable and symbolic associated with the date. I looked at mine. A hand protruded from a television, gripping a gun with its finger on the trigger and the aim held steadily between my eyes. This was the directive plot device. A cue for the story to my life.
I went out and bought a bigger television. Some act of defiance, a move to firmly establish my ownership of the story. (Take that, universe!) Now it rests here, on the wall of my apartment in Fort Collins, forty-two inches of flat-screen glory, and though I don’t have cable (who needs cable these days?), I am never at a loss for visual stimulus. After a long day, why not forget and put on a movie? I’ll pop a big old bowl of popcorn and stuff my face.
But as I peruse my collection of LaserDiscs, the thought of sitting down on the futon and watching a movie seems tedious. Why the hell do I even own a LaserDisc player? What use is the VCR? Why all these DVDs of movies and television shows, stacked high upon the shelves? I must be truthful with myself, here: I’m a lazy glutton who devours stories like handfuls of leftover candy corn.
Books are of course wonderful—surely more so—and my growing collection generally requires the installation of a new shelf every two to three months. They light up my brain in places the television just doesn’t tingle, so I eat the stories in books, too. But the television! My television provides me with an instantaneous transport from the confines of my life, requiring no effort on my part; I then consume the plight that unfolds on the screen, and, removed perceptually from my own drama, I am safe and comforted in the knowledge that this is a story that will entertain me to its end, and afterward I can devour more. Except I can’t fool myself forever.
Currently I’ve reached a place in my life where I feel compelled, sometimes overwhelmingly so, to live my life so intensely, to sit down at a desk and sculpt words onto a page that are inspiring, meaningful, fresh, alive. I have a desire to become vulnerable to the world in discourse, to stop pretending that I can somehow escape the responsibility that I have as a person on this earth, my life being inseparable from all others. I am sick with my level of contentment, my domestication, and the ubiquitous opportunity for a vicarious life, ostensibly one that has a more exciting story than my own. I’d like to wholly give my talents to the world in a way that makes a tangible difference––and the first step in doing that is asking myself a question: What’s the real story to my life? Right now I’m a cowardly bum. As soon as I turn on the television, my passion is abated, and I’m hypnotized by a tale that is not my own.
And so, a longtime friend has now become a nemesis, a gun pointed at my head. I know that without effort and discipline, the story I want to write will remain only a potentiality, and whether I’m writing at my desk or moving through my life, the fear of a story’s failure is always illusory in light of the beauty of its realization. Go forth and burn all the televisions.
Photo provided by author.