Martha Beck's 5 Best Pieces of Advice
I frequently hear parents and pundits lamenting the brain-rotting, lowbrow practice of watching the "boob tube." Many couples I know strictly limit the time their children spend in front of the TV. Some of my friends actually hide from others the fact that they love TV; when pressed, they'll lie outright, claiming they're too busy reading Proust to think about popular culture.
While almost all of us spend a fair amount of time staring at televisions, many individuals, as well as social scientists and other ideologues, think TV is bad for us. I disagree. I think TV is like a vitamin: toxic if taken in large quantities, but also essential for social and personal well-being.
My family of origin fired up its first TV when I was 13. Because of this, I spent the first 12 years of my life on the Nerd Patrol. I didn't know what other kids were talking about, and vice versa. In my quest for entertainment, I turned to things like reading Shakespeare—and if you don't think quoting Hamlet will get a 10-year-old beaten up in the schoolyard, my friend, you have never been that 10-year-old.
When I finally did start watching TV, everything on it—even advertising—was like a window opening on my own culture. Television is a piece of furniture that lets us see the top of Everest, the Crab Nebula, the funniest and smartest and most athletic people in the world, a talking sponge in pants! To this day, it thrills me. It's a social unifier, a dispenser of useful information about trends (in fashion, slang, voting), scientific breakthroughs, the Zeitgeist of the moment. So, though you can overdose on television (which makes it feel boring and annoying), I believe it's a modern necessity when taken in moderate doses. I know I function much better when I get my Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin TV.
4. It Is Good to Be Wrong
Do you perhaps disagree with me about television? Do you believe that TV is an evil invention that should be done away with entirely? Well, here's what I have to say to you, buddy:
You may be right.
I may be wrong.
I very often am.
Every time someone can demonstrate to me that I'm in error, a bright new bulb lights up my dim wit. That's why it's good to be wrong—not because we should hang on to our mistakes but because acknowledging error is the foundation of learning. I've watched countless people sacrifice relationships, careers, even life itself, on the altar of their own "rightness." One acquaintance used to rant that motorcycle helmet laws were dangerous because a helmetless rider, who could hear other vehicles coming, would never get in an accident. "But what if you're wrong?" I asked him. "I mean, statistically..."
"I'm not wrong," he said, "and I don't want to hear your statistics." Shortly thereafter, he died of head injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Being open to new information and opinions, inviting people and events to let you know where you're wrong, is the best way I know to open the mind. I try to use the phrase "Tell me where I'm wrong" at least four or five times a day. Try it. You'll see that while insisting that you're right is gratifying, accepting that you're wrong can be transformative.