Great Gusto

Published in Abstract Magazine, 2016


Is “binging” necessarily a bad thing? Most definitions I’ve read include the words; “to excess” and “more than desirable,” which begs the question of ‘desirable’ by whom, and how far is too far?

For those of us with Netflix et al, we binge (and yes, even binge to excess, which is double the definition and really saying something) and go all out on movies, documentaries, and particularly television shows. This has not always been the case; I remember originally trying to watch 24 when it was on television, waiting patiently for each weekly installment before ultimately losing interest.

Everything changed for me one time when I got quite sick and one of the prescriptions my doctor gave me kept me wide awake for most of the next week. So I Netflixed nearly the entire five seasons of Breaking Bad. Despite the fact that I suffered for seven days with two inner ear infections, I had a pretty good time.

I haven’t been as sick since then but I’ve kept binging, absorbing hours of Game of Thrones,

Downton Abbey, Arrested Development, Twin Peaks, and Lost with great gusto and aplomb. I’ve even rediscovered Jack Bauer and caught up on my 24. Binging has given these shows new life.

Netflix conducted a study, which found among other things, that 61% of respondents said they regularly binge-watched shows and that 73% have positive feelings towards binge streaming TV. Naturally, show creators have taken notice of this phenomenon.

“It’s very possible we wouldn’t have made it…without this creation of these technologies and this cultural creation of binge-watching,” says Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan in an interview with Wired. “Under the old paradigm – using the old technology of simply having first runs and then reruns on networks – I don’t know that we would’ve reached the critical mass that we reached.”

Despite the popularity,’s Jim Pagel argues that binging TV shows disturbs the integrity of individual episodes and destroys the pleasure found in cliffhangers. No time to mull over Red Weddings, or the Dharma Initiative, or the Man From Another Place.

James Poniewozik of Time Magazine is on the other side of the fence, noting that the surest sign a medium is changing is when people start to romanticize the very features of it that used to be condemned, and that the episodic nature of television is an advertising, rather than a storytelling, device. Poniewozik compares watching to reading: sometimes you tear through a novel in a weekend, other times you savor it over the course of a month or twono harm in either method.

Consider “House of Cards,” (a Netflix original series) where every episode of each season is released all at once online, and it’s up to the viewer to decide how quickly or slowly they’d like to consume it.

No one’s even quite sure what constitutes a “binge.” According to a Harris Interactive Poll, watching just two episodes of something in one sitting qualifies. But that means simply catching a couple episodes of Parks and Recreation in a row counts as a binge–a dubious idea considering that’s less than half the time it takes to watch your average movie.

Maybe it’s just time to retire the phrase, “binge watching.” After all, binge eating, drinking, shopping, and working all qualify as serious medical issues. But there must be some ways to go all out or ‘to excess’ that aren’t destructive–what of getting ahead on our gardening, exercising, or household projects?

Are those hours spent curled up in our favorite chair with a good book considered a binge read? How about time spent pursuing our life goals? I don’t think anyone speaks of Michael Jordan as having binged on basketball, or Neil Armstrong on a moon-binge.

We need to find a word to use when we immerse ourselves in what we love, completely, for an extended period of time, and while remaining healthy, responsible, and safe. Because that’s what I want: to grab life in great big heaping lumps; one moment, experience–or episode!–at a time.


Wrought Feelings

More from Candace:  “Feelings are a bridge between the inner world of consciousness and the outer world of manifestation, and must be felt and experienced if any kind of real and lasting result is going to come about.”

Okay, so if I don’t feel my emotions, nothing will ever be gained, changed or otherwise affected by what is going on in my head.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is an awful thing to say!  I don’t want to feel half of what is going on in my neurotransmitters on a good day!

Hmmm, have I mentioned I’m going through a lot of transition at this point in my life?  A LOT of transition.  I’m feeling a whole dynamic world of states of consciousness that change like one of those glass-filled kaleidoscopes you saw on well-dressed coffee tables everywhere in the early 90’s.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah…

When it really gets rough inside my head and the ligands are landing in the most unpleasant of ways, I look for ways to NOT feel.  I think I’m a little upset with Candace for telling me I’m not supposed to run away suppress or otherwise drown those feelings.

I admit it, I’m going through a huge phase of transition in my life (seriously – career, home, geographic region, relationship…).  I love the highs and don’t care at all for the lows.  I’ve spent enough time crying, eating and generally wanting to bang my head against the wall – do I really need more of those emotions?

Apparently, I do.  Perhaps if I feel them, I’ll actually learn to deal with them without the aforementioned behaviors.

Okay, fine, Candace.  If I’m going to make any change, I have to not just ride the shit-storm, but actually smell it.  Whatever.

A very wise friend of mine told me just yesterday that progress requires taking steps up in consciousness, then supporting/sustaining them until you’re ready for the next step up.  Meh, I suppose all of that requires awareness of all that each steps entails, including occasional [incessant] loneliness, mourning and grief…. not to mention the paralyzing questioning insecurity brings.

In moments when I’m most honest, I have to admit I’ve used the banal tool: alcohol, to mask my feelings, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Excessive sleep, movies, performance (read: adrenaline), physical and emotional risk (read: adrenaline) and even Facebook to escape for a little while.  Sometimes all of those things are happy and healthy little choices we make when deciding how to spend our time.  Sometimes, those are ways to divert attention and avoid feeling.

Okay, so now that brings me to another question: what is normal activity and what is escape?  Or the converse: what is sitting and feeling emotions and what is sitting and looking for trouble?  I don’t want to bask/wallow in my emotions to excess.  There’s got to be a good balance…

Don’t we have an entire two generations full of people who want everything now and really have no idea what it’s like to sit in a quiet room along with their feelings?  Oh pong, what hath though wrought?

… I’ll get around to thinking about – but not wallowing in – all of this, just as soon as I finish this drink while watching a movie and posting this very personal blog on the entire world wide web (read: adrenaline).

Jesus, where’s Pythagoras when you need him…