The Misfit, Re-fit

1. A misfit’s life is not an easy one, but a misfit to society is like the subject of the song,DSCN5393 “A Country Boy Can Survive.”

I’ve never fit in comfortably with my own kind. I like to wear jeans and fishing shirts; I feel ridiculous in a suit.

I live my life on the run, or, to be more exact, on the runs– the streams and rivers fed by wildness.

I like the fly-fishing life, the stream walker’s hike, the life of close contact with the elements of nature. I enjoy the sharing of experience, the music of this world, with any one who listens.

You could say that I’m a misfit.  I’m not one to argue.

DSCN54182. In case any one still needs proof about this status, let me offer you my take on … television…

Back in the late ’70s I read Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and I haven’t softened my position on the subject yet. The problem is inherent in the medium, non-reformable.

Oh sure, the content could be better– less gratuitous violence, stupidity, and sexism, more variety in entertainment and education, but the muck involved is more insidious.

DSCN5386Other technologies, such as the printed word or the PC or the copy-machine, are not controlled by the rich, the powerful, the few. They don’t have that widespread, instantaneous entry to our heads. They allow some interaction with the source and let our voice be heard.

The TV addict, on the other hand, passively observes. The addict is diminished and conforming, a dependent thinker when he thinks at all.

Democracy is a small thing in the land of big screen television. Personal relationships can mutate there. Our understanding of nature is reduced and flattened. There’s a DSCN5374disconnect with sensory experience.

TV has its place, however. It’s an excellent tool for advertising. It creates big industries around some lousy and unnecessary products. It allows us to become addicted to its message: we’re inadequate, unhealthy, and probably a little insane.

We’ll buy our way to freedom, thanks to all the ads…

We could buy our way– if watching this new “opiate of the masses” wasn’t so… exhausting. There’s a drug problem here on Earth.

DSCN5379TV has another place in life. Although my father at age 87 could still quote Shakespeare and maneuver adroitly through a crossword puzzle in The New York Times,  my mother, at the same age, has reduced mobility and no longer has the will to read. The television is a friend.

She can sit and chuckle at life’s absurdities and get pissed off at the news on CNN, but at least she’s responding to something in the world when she’s alone.

Only a misfit would talk like this, instead of kneeling at the great, oracular shrine.

3. A misfit might prefer to ramble on the slow change of autumn leaves. He might DSCN5351imagine the solitary pursuit of wild trout as a sports event, fer chris’ sake. In the time of baseball play-offs and the rising tide of football coverage, he might pit himself against… (no gladiator images, please)… the Trout.

On a “par 12” stream, for example, he might give himself three hours in which to score 12 points– one for each trout at 8 inches or more, one for every three trout less than 8-inches long. All trout have to be taken on a barbless hook and then released unharmed. Scoring 12 points in three hours is a draw. Over 12, he wins. Under 12, he loses.

No… it was just a thought. I’ve got no time for trifles–a game less barbaric than the sport of “salmon baseball” that I once observed being played by idiots at the dam on Oak Orchard Creek. I remember walking by those guys, disgusted with the scene.

I felt like I was wearing a designer suit instead of vest and waders.DSCN5355




About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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8 Responses to The Misfit, Re-fit

  1. I think the tide is turning, at least somewhat, with the next generation. My kids, now in or entering their 20s, are rejecting the consumerist lifestyle that feeds and is fed by television. They are desperate for authenticity and far more drawn to experiences than things. They value books, music, friends and family much more than I did at their age. Maybe we’re at the dawn of a new era, or maybe it’s just the reality of being young and broke :-).

  2. Jim, I hope you’re right about that, and maybe it is a generational silver lining. I think it’s true for your kids and mine, but beyond that I’m still not convinced. As a card-carrying/burning member of the so-called hippie generation in the 60s and 70s, I recall the pillars of society saying this sort of thing about me and mine but, alas, I can’t find too many old-timers now without a bunch of TVs in the house. The good news is that there’ll always be some “misfits” fighting for good books, music, and authenticity.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    I pretty much quit watching TV in the early 80’s, except for sporting events. Some people can’t believe that I have only a passing knowledge of popular shows or sitcoms of the era, right up through today. In fact, if it weren’t for the wife and kid, I wouldn’t have it at all.

    • I don’t have a clue either, Bob, ’cause I don’t have a working boob tube in the house but confess to the occasional documentary, baseball game or Family Guy show when visiting elsewhere. For news events, a main source is still the newspaper or NPR. If I knew as much about the popular shows as most people do, I’d never have enough time for fishing, writing, working outdoors, or occasionally dropping in at the local bar. As always, thanks much for commenting.

  4. Alan says:

    I’m not big on TV, for one the 275 channels are about the same including the commercials.
    There are alternatives.

  5. Brent says:

    We got rid of cable about two years ago, and I can say that my only regret is that I can’t tune into the odd baseball or basketball game. Most of the shows or movies I care to watch can be obtained on Netflix, and then the choice to watch is actually a choice–rather than a passive activity that I fall back on out of laziness–and totally commercial-free. I’m back to reading more and writing my blog when I’m not out.

    (And nowadays, I’m not even so much a misfit for not having “television,” per se. That being said, I am a bit of a misfit for not being completely plugged in in other ways.)

    Outdoors is right, too. There is a distinct generational shift toward active experiences rather than passive and vicarious consumption of “experience.” Young adults aren’t watching Friends or Cheers (like they did in the 80s/90s) and thinking how cool it would be to leave the suburbs and experience authenticity in the city; they’re saying farewell to their parents’ generation’s plastic lifestyles and stifling social norms and actually seeking out authentic urban areas. (The cynic would say that they’re turning those cities into yuppie havens with tapas and wine bars where soul food joints used to reside, but that’s beside the point). Similarly, among people my age, there’s less watching television nature documentaries and more tossing some granola bars into a backpack and heading out for a day hike or to cast a line.

  6. Alright, Brent, thanks– your analysis sounds encouraging, as did Jim’s. Perhaps I’m a little out of the loop on this (if we’re lucky).
    Folks, if you haven’t yet discovered Brent’s perceptions on American social trends via his new blog site at Bridging the Gap, check it out by clicking on the blogroll link at Rivertop Rambles. Recommended!

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