Breaking past the reality TV binge

I found myself in a reality TV-fueled funk recently.

After long, stressful days, I’d unwind with an “Impractical Jokers” binge. The show focuses on four friends who “compete to embarrass each other,” as it’s slogan goes. It’s fun, light-hearted and pleasant. Maybe this would be best described as a nightly mind retreat or getaway for instant gratification.

But then three things happened late last week to snap me back toward balancing those mindless unwinding shows with the things I consider more enriching and fulfilling.

First, I saw Paul McCartney perform in concert at Target Center, then I stocked up on new reads at the Austin Public Library spring used book sale, and then my favorite band released a surprise new album.

Paul McCartney was the primer. Not to overstate a concert, but there was something awe-inspiring about seeing him onstage, listening to his charming banter, listening to stories, and hearing classics like “Hey Jude.”

Getting to see a Beatle live was a bit of a dream. The Beatles have a mythical cultural status, but getting to hear one of the Fab Four share stories about the creative process and his bandmates was refreshingly humanizing — and it was just cool, if I’m to be honest.

The second came at the annual book sale. Just as I was about to leave with one book, I stumbled on a set of four William Faulkner books. They were the kind that were too good to pass up: hardcovers of rich red.

I started reading “Light in August” a few days later and have been blindsided by Faulkner’s rich prose ever since.

I know, feel free to roll your eyes at a lit nerd with an English major, but I put off delving into Faulkner’s novels for far too long.

Then Radiohead sealed the deal by releasing two singles and eventually their ninth album, “A Moon Shaped Pool.” It’s musically ambitious with thought-provoking lyrics — the kind of musical achievement few, if any, other bands are producing these days. I can’t get enough of it.

Now every person’s standard for enriching, fulfilling activities and materials is different. But with only so many hours in a day, it’s a constant remind to fill as much of the limited free time we have with something that’s worthwhile.

By week’s end, I flicked on the TV, channel surfed a few moments and turned it off. Then I sat back to read Faulkner. It was a more fulfilling end to a long week than ending the week with reality television.

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