Television isn’t called a diversion for nothing.

I think of diversions as hobbies, and the dictionary defines diversion one way as a ‘pastime.’ Really though the main definition I found is “of straying from a course, activity, or use,” equating diversion with synonyms such as deflection, departure, and deviation.

In the 19th century, the Paris morgue was a building where bodies were laid out for exposure to the public, originally for identification, but it quickly grew to be one of Paris’ “great” tour destinations. People flocked to see this morbid show, sometimes overcrowding the specially architectured building to the point of fights breaking out. It was a show for the rich and for the poor, and it was a sad way to discover the death of your loved one.

Morgues in this age are more private affairs, to identify bodies after everything but exposing the loved ones last is exhausted. However, in our desire to see the outrageous, the morbid, the destructed, we slow traffic not even blocked by the accident site to rubber-neck where the site is. We are diverted.

Reality t.v. isn’t very far removed from Paris’ early morgue or our tendency to rubber-neck. Television has made it possible to look over someone’s shoulder in what used to be private indignities. “Big Brother,” for example of “reality t.v.,” crowds a bunch of people in a house, while the public watches them treat each other with every kind of disdain and indecency. We watch as they get angry, embarrassed, and saddened. We watch as parts of their insides die. When the show is over, you don’t see that you are left with a bunch of traumatized people. The hurt inflicted, seen and unseen, doesn’t stop for those people once the show stops.

We divert from our own lives to our personal morgue display of deaths. We divert our eyes to watch the outrageous, the morbid, the destructed, slowing the traffic of our own lives, and, perhaps, diverting the track of our lives. It is a little bit easier to road rage, when there is window and steel between us and them. We feel a little bit better about telling off our coworkers, families, and, even, friends.

One thing really bad about reality t.v. is that it isn’t truly reality. People are chosen by certain criteria, crowded into one house or island as a group, and told the point is to beat other people in a game, so that we can look through glass at the bodies. It is actually stranger than fiction.

I don’t know if watching fiction murder mysteries where there is every sort of intrigue is any better in the way of diversion. Am I not watching to see the outrageous, the morbid, the destructed? Am I not reading books, wanting to be like a character in the book?

For some reason, perhaps because of The Fall–the death–of creation’s purity, none of us are immune to the desire for these diversions. Though, perhaps, we can help our self from becoming as invested in them, diverting our lives according to what we see through the glass or relishing the hurt of others, even strangers, and, instead, be mindful of keeping a diversion a pastime or hobby.



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