Thursday, March 18, 2021


            Kim and I occasionally ask each other to identify the high point of the day, week or month. (We skip the low point.) Last week I identified my February high point was discovering the Mute button on my remote. I always knew it was there and what it does, but I had never really thought to use it. Now, I do.


            We watch a lot of television, primarily news-related stuff, which features too many commercials for drugs – somehow there is an overlap between news-watchers and the ill. (Could it be that watching the news causes illness?) Rather than hearing about all those nasty side-effects, we turn off the sound and watch healthy-looking folks frolic silently with their loved ones. We also have watched a series or two on Hulu (thank you, Beth), and episode after episode repeats the same commercials – probably not a problem if you only watch one episode per week, but who does that anymore? The mute button allows me to tune out the insurance ads that say nothing about the insurance, the phone service team who had become an obnoxious part of my family, and the high-volume folks assuring me how much we would win with Michigan’s new online gambling. Thank you, mute button! I only wish I had discovered it earlier, during the Trump presidency.


            In the 1979 movie Being There, Peter Sellers plays a man addicted to watching television. In one memorable scene he is walking in the streets of New York and is accosted by a robber with a gun. Sellers has the remote in his hand and points it at the robber, clicking it to change the channel. The confused robber departs – the remote worked.


            Perhaps we could also take our remote, featuring the mute button, into life outside our television. Technology is making huge advances these days, so why not? Kim’s dad had solved the problem by turning off his hearing aid, especially, Kim says, when women were speaking, and some men have learned to do this without the hearing aid – or so I am told. And while we are at it, why not use the channel-changing feature of the remote: Push a button, and tune into a whole new reality. I believe our former president had learned to do this.


            I read somewhere (might have been science fiction) that miniaturization would soon bring our computer screen into our eyes themselves, so we would no longer need to carry and thumb or finger a device at all. We will be able to manipulate (wrong word: manus = hand) the screen – our visual experience – by doing something with the eye-brain-microchip connection. You could, I suppose, even do an ocular google search. Well, if you can do that, can’t you also apply Photoshop to reality, doing a bit of editing, cropping the image, enhancing the colors, emphasizing the contrast, or if you are good at it, adding or deleting people from your experience? Far-fetched? No. We already do that, without the use of computer chips. We do it with memories, of course, and if you have mastered the technique, you can edit the experience as you are having it. Come to think of it, most of us can do this already, seeing and interpreting though the filter of Self.


            This is a long way from discovering the mute button on my television remote. In any case, here’s how Wordsworth advised that we edit our experience:


The World Is Too Much With Us 
               by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


            No, we have not seen old Triton out on Torch Lake – at least, not yet. But we continue to try to stay in tune to what is going on around us, often by using mental editing – choosing what deserves our attention. The mute button helps.


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