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Blank Screen

When I was a teenager, I used to read the comics section of the newspaper on a fairly regular basis. For some reason I’ve gotten into the habit again over the last couple months. The comics have gotten smaller and my eyes have gotten worse. Some of the strips are mildly amusing, while others seem like a waste of paper. I like the form; I like how a miniature story can be conveyed so briefly, with just a few images and words. One thing I find interesting, these days, is how I see general themes of cultural commentary that are common across multiple strips. For example, social media and text massaging are popular targets. Every now and then, one strip or another will drop something that makes me do a double-take.

I have to admit that “Hi and Lois” is not, generally speaking, one of my favorites, but it is certainly familiar. This is a strip I grew up with, and the characters seem almost like distant family members.

So… that brings us to a certain strip that ran last week. Let me recreate the basic plot.

Hi Flagston walks into the living room. He sees his wife sitting in front of their flat-panel television. He asks her, “What are you watching?”

Lois replies, “Nothing!”

Hi seems mildly concerned: “You’re not just saying that, are you?” He notices something isn’t quite right.

Lois answers: “Staring at a blank screen is like meditating.”

That’s right, the television isn’t on.

"Staring at a blank screen is like meditating."

To top it off, Lois is wide-eyed and smiling, looking vaguely desperate or blissed-out — I’m not sure which.

I believe staring at a blank wall is a practice in Zen Buddhism. I would love to see Brian and Greg Walker explore this new direction for Lois. Maybe she could start busting out some koans (like Zippy the Pinhead) or startling Dawg with a particularly piercing katsu.

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