Okay, I’ll admit it: I am a product of the “television generation.” And although I watch almost none of it now, TV was a prominent part of my childhood. Psychologists and other scientists would probably say that I watched it too much and that part of my brain is likely damaged or underdeveloped due to the hypnotic effects of TV’s radiation frequency. But let me simply say this: I watched a helluva lot of TV growing up, and I enjoyed it.
One of my earliest memories is that of sitting in my mother’s lap in front of the TV in our kitchen. I recall the black and white images of an American flag draped over a box, and I remember the tears rolling down Mamma’s sweet face. I was too young to know it then, but an American president (Kennedy) had been assassinated, and it was his funeral that we were watching.
I also remember the one special day that we were allowed to have a television in our school classroom. We watched in amazement as the Apollo rocket was launched into space. And then it seems like only yesterday that the country watched as the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated only minutes after takeoff. Those two events are constant reminders of the risks and rewards of exploration and science.
Television also brought into our living room comedy’s greatest, including Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Flip Wilson, and Carol Burnett. I remember the night of Steve Martin’s debut on Home Box Office (HBO). Oh my! He was funny. His “wild and crazy guy” routine, his banjo and balloon tricks, his “happy feet.” Remember all that?
Through most of my early years and adolescence I enjoyed shows like Gilligan’s Island, Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, and All in the Family. And the variety shows of Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, and Dean Martin – well, they just don’t make ’em like that any more.
I know what you’re thinking: this guy was a childhood television junkie. But I don’t think that’s all bad. The way I see it, meeting all of those wonderful characters over the airwaves marks the trail of my life.
But I suppose too that the “television age” has shocked and challenged me in many ways. It’s hard for me to forget the fearful images of Charles Manson, Jonestown and the Twin Towers. The images of Hitler’s concentration camps, and most recently those of the tsunami in Asia — they all have a tendency to challenge one’s perspective and make one question mankind, nature, and even the very forces of good and evil.
It’s unprecedented — the human mind being delivered such high doses of news and information. And it’s hard to predict the outcome of such an age. But here’s what does seem clear:
We humans will never lose our capacity to love and our desire to live. The forces of hatred have no chance against the power of striving individuals committed to good. And the ability to find beauty even amidst the ruins of battle will overcome any vision of destruction. We humans want to live and be happy, and generally speaking, we seek goodness and joy.
Teach your children to feel confident about this world and the future they face. Teach them how to seek beauty and how to conquer despair with hope. Teach them that love and friendship have all the power necessary to defeat envy and hate. Move them to feel the undeniable presence of a transcendent and living God.
© 2005, Levi Hill