Monday, May 17, 2010


As a soporific, I watched a little TV last night before bed. There were movies I had seen before, channels with laugh tracks, things for sale and religious encouragements for Christians. Each channel had its ads.

Finally I settled on a public television show about a detective-like character in the just-after-World-War-II UK. What it lacked in slam-bang action and simplistically-imagined characters, it made up for in its attempt to portray human beings with motives and hopes and shadowed conflicts. Watching it made me wonder why, on all those other channels, human beings got such short shrift. There was so much space in which to imagine and depict the human condition and yet everything seemed to be reduced to potato chips and sweet drinks.

I wasn't feeling critical -- I like action-adventure or romantic comedies as well as the next person -- but I like to be interested in the people-y part of people -- the quirks and contrasts and decency and impertinence that give people some dimension. I wasn't demanding that everything be 'important' or 'profound,' but wasn't there something to be said for the interesting stuff?

I guess TV is built to fulfill the longing for a "because." Things can happen in a tidy way that never seems to be the case on the street. "Because" means you don't have to think and in that thinking feel the wisps and tendrils and inexplicable confluence that led up to this action or that. Things are in control when you can say "because," and life has a way of laughing at the controls that human beings bring to bear.

"Because" -- what a very strange word. It asserts connections even as it denies the connections that exist and nag and leave us feeling out of control. A strange word -- human in its hopes and ridiculous in its applications.

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