I wonder how many times you do the same thing I do. You get home from work and merrily sit down in front of the TV, unfocus your eyes, and relax. I could browse around StatsCanada and tell you how many hours on average people spend watching movies, playing videogames, browsing the interwebs, playing on their mobile phone, or I could just acknowledge that you already know people spend a lot of time in front of screens because you have two eyes. You see it as much as I do.
Television is a delight. I’m not going to say that it isn’t. There is something so engrossing about an IMAX experience, something so wonderful about sitting and watching a group of funny people get into different shenanigans every week. There is something altogether human about the experience of entertainment. Last night I went and saw The Maze Runner with my wife even though I knew almost nothing about it. I was surprised and inspired from the event. The movie invoked my imagination and got me working on my novel again. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?
What I’ve described is a pretty healthy attitude toward movies and television, I think. They are there to inspire, and entertain. They amuse us immensely. But that might only be the outer peel of this onion…
The thing about the word ‘amuse’, funny as this is, it means literally not to think. To muse means to think, to contemplate. Put an ‘a’ in front of it and the word becomes the opposite. An atheist is the opposite of a theist. Abnormal is the opposite of normal. To be amused is not to muse.
Take this with the word entertain. It comes from the Latin word intertenere, which means “to hold inside”. Of course words evolve and change, and now entertain means something a little different than to hold inside. It can also mean to “enter into” something. To be entertained is to enter into something, and also to hold it inside. But inside where? Enter into what?
Let’s keep these definitions in mind then when we return to our previous image at the start of all this. I asked if you ever came home from work and sat in front of a screen to relax. Relax comes from the Latin as well. Pretty much all the words do. Over 65% of our working vocabulary. Relaxare means to relax, but more specifically, re– means “expressing force with intention”, and lax means “to loosen”. To relax is to intentionally force loosening. Let’s play word jumble now.
If ever you come home and watch a screen in order to relax, you do it by being entertained, or amused. To put it another way, when you come home from work to intentionally force loosening, you do so by entering into a place, not a physical place, but the place where television takes you, which is a place where you do not think. This place where you do not think is not only a place you have entered, but it is a place that you hold inside. Holding it inside is intentional then, since relaxing was the intentional loosening.
What I’m trying to say is that words mean things. Who knew?
When you relax by watching the boob-tube, you relax by bringing whatever entertainment it is into your core. Let’s mix another metaphor here and add that you are what you eat. Relaxing is a special ritual in which you bring whatever you want into the core of yourself and intentionally hold it there. You relax by intention.
I know it sounds like I’m saying the same thing over and over again, but I just want you to get that image locked firmly in your head. To relax is intentional. No one relaxes without making a choice. So now answer me this:
What did you choose to hold inside yourself today, and what is it doing to the rest of your delicate organs?