Cutting the Cord
We did it! It was scary. We didn’t know what would happen. We feared buyers’ remorse. But we did it! We canceled our TV subscription!
Of course, we kept Internet. In fact, we increased the speed. And, of course, we stayed with the huge telecom company that has a monopoly in our house. (There is another fast Internet provider that sends us promotional offers every week, but their engineer came to the house and told us that we can’t get their service. Hence the monopoly.)
“Life will be simpler and cheaper if we just had fast internet and the freedom to select our own entertainment directly from the TV companies, rather than going through the internet provider. There’ll be fewer remote controls, boxes, wires, and frustration.” That’s what we thought. And … we were right.
(OK, so we had to subscribe to half a dozen other companies, who own the streaming channels we watch, but at least we ditched what we didn’t need or want.)
It would be a stretch to say that this was a holy, godly decision, a kind of Pre-Lent act of self-denial, but at least it allows me to polish my ‘Simple Christian Living’ halo and feel very smug.
Why do I need 250 TV channels when I only watch 6? Why do I need 148 different kinds of bread to chose from at the supermarket? 148. Count them. I mean, what is an indecisive guy supposed to do? Usually, I break out in a sweat, my heart races, I spend 20 minutes going, “ooh, that one looks nice, but wait, so does that one …. oh and then there’s this … but that one’s 10 cents cheaper … ooh I wonder if that one is good for toasting, but I also want to make sandwiches..” And on I go. Sometimes I can be so anxious about this that I leave the shop without actually buying anything.
When I do make a purchase after half an hour of thinking through the calamities that might occur if I buy one of the other 147 instead of this one, I will drive home stressing about whether I made the right decision. I’ll second guess myself, then third guess, then fourth. And then I’ll get home and I’ll take some of the bread and eat it. And I’ll think, “I knew I should have bought that other one.”
In a book entitled The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, psychologist Barry Schwartz claims that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce a person’s anxiety. Schwartz conducted a study in which he set up some tables in a supermarket, and gave samples of different kinds of jams to shoppers. One table had three flavors to sample and the other had 24 flavors. He found that sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But, here’s the interesting thing, 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy some jam as a result, while only 3 percent of those who had 24 jams to choose from bought some. Schwartz concluded that “the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory, but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”
There is a serious spiritual truth here. God made human beings simple, but we have complicated things. Too much choice confuses, too much trivia distracts, too much stuff takes our eyes off the true prize.
Churches in the Developed World tend to ignore the spiritual discipline of simplicity. God has lavished gifts on us, and called us to steward the planet. This is a heavy responsibility, and yet, where God calls he always equips. Part of stewarding God’s stuff is making wise decisions about consumerism and acquisitiveness. It often means saying ‘no’ to impulses that we know, deep down, won’t make us content.
As we peep over the horizon and see Lent galloping quickly towards us, let’s determine that we will not allow our minds to be distracted from what’s truly important. Live simply and simply live!