Based on my recent return to Netflix and customary binging, you would think that I was completely cut off from all forms of entertainment while I was in India. Far from it. In fact, despite avoiding the Internet as much as possible, I watched movies more often than I do at home. Sadly, my ambitions of being mindfully present in the unabashedly loving community there were thwarted by paralyzing sickness, and then, by indolent choice. Granted, I wasn’t holing myself up during the day and avoiding people when I was healthy enough to leave our guest house, but my fellow traveller and I were indulging in mindless consumption nearly every night at a certain point. That point being the threshold on long trips when you lose the awe of being in a novel place and yearn for the bland comforts of home. This led to re-watching a number of Pixar movies, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, Family Guy, The Simpsons (which I realized I should’ve been giving more of a chance over the years instead of succumbing to the easy, uninformed criticism of thinking it was better in the past because it’s the past), and…it really doesn’t matter. It was mostly to pass the time, which is pretty much the most awful way to live. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the entertainment, nor to suggest that I somehow shut down all my intellectual faculties, but to point to the potentially cheap, unfulfilling escape inherent to such business.
Rather than learn from this experience, I returned home and craved further escape. Or maybe it’s that I’m searching for inspiration. That’s how I’m justifying Netflix to myself. I’m not getting away from life, but discovering the various ways in which other creative types (if I may include myself in such company) channel their understanding of their experience into art. Hence these binges: Wet Hot American Summer (the impetus for resubscribing), BoJack Horseman (the clear winner for meaningful consumption in this mix), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Unfortunately, besides this post, which is yet another pitiful way for me to self-lacerate, I’m doing very little processing or reflecting. That is, I’m not thinking deeply about how I might use this consumption to fuel creation.
I suppose I’m hoping that Netflix catalyzes creative osmosis or something and isn’t simply a parasite on any creative energy I might have harnessed otherwise. Based on various podcasts I listen to, featuring the creative talents I enjoy most, we’re all voracious consumers, and this doesn’t preclude powerful creation. If anything, it might be the necessary foundation for it. No great artist has ever worked in a void. They found the means for their own authenticity in the efforts of their predecessors and contemporaries. I imagine my greatest doubts then are about my particular habits of consumption. If I want to be a writer, particularly of young adult fiction, wouldn’t it make more sense to immerse myself in that artistic field? Instead, I invariably turn to other media and experience narratives elsewhere.
Regardless, continuing to let Netflix choose “Next Episode” for me isn’t going to help anything. It’s like the Entertainment in Infinite Jest. I fear getting caught in that fatal loop. Of course, there’s an easy way out of the loop. Or rather, there’s a way out of the loop because it’s way easier to stay stuck in the jest. Close the browser and create.
It’s stupid and unnecessary to stop consuming, but it’s equally stupid to forget how necessary it is to start creating.