On his commute home from the train station, Reiner listens to the 6 o’clock news. When we sit down to our meal, he shares the stories, usually indignant and full of contempt for what he’s heard. He needs to vent, to spew and sputter and verbally pound the kitchen table. I understand his mood. The news industry deserves our scorn if not for reporting calamities and upset, certainly for the fact that some headlines are deemed newsworthy in the first place.
I’m torn. Part of me understands his need to give voice to his emotions. Hell, not part of me, ALL of me gets that. But I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to be a sounding board on the receiving end of a vehement discourse about all that’s wrong with the world. Especially if it’s the same story day after day. Sometimes, I can distance myself from the emotion. Other times, though, I need to reach out and gently (or not, as the case may be) request that we talk about something else. Please. Not at the dinner table.
Several years ago, I asked a social worker friend, how she coped with the stories she heard in her practice. One of her strategies was to limit her exposure to violence in the media as best she could. “I hear enough horror stories during the day. I don’t need to entertain myself with suspense or drama or thrilling chase scenes. Once your brain registers a grisly scene, you cannot un-see it, and I believe we pay an emotional price for that.”
It made a lot of sense to me, and I’ve done my best to follow suit. I have disconnected the radio and the TV at home. We do not subscribe to newspapers. I have kept my promise to stay away from internet news sites, but of course, I cannot avoid the headline news shared by my friends online and off.
Which makes me realize that the guru was right.
In the late 1980’s I spent a week at a yoga retreat where the guru’s policy stated: no newspapers or magazines, no radio, no TV. During the orientation sessions, leaders answered questions about the news blackout.
“But what if something terrible happens… a calamity of some kind, and everyone out there is upset while in here, we blithely carry on, ignorant of the news?”
“If you need to know, you will be made aware,” was the guru’s answer. “We are connected with the communities nearby. When the Challenger blew up, we heard an hour after it happened. A delivery man told the kitchen staff.”
It makes sense. Think about it. How much of the news that you read on any given day is “new”? How much of it impacts you directly and is vital to how you live your life? More importantly, consider how the news stories or online “content” causes you harm, makes you afraid, anxious, or worried? How often do you feel angry, then impotent, then despairing? That cannot be good, can it?
Gertrude Stein said, “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Her statement is in response to the question “What do you think about the atomic bomb?”
I never could take any interest in the atomic bomb, I just couldn’t any more than in everybody’s secret weapon. That it has to be secret makes it dull and meaningless. Sure it will destroy a lot and kill a lot, but it’s the living that are interesting not the way of killing them, because if there were not a lot left living how could there be any interest in destruction. Alright, that is the way I feel about it. They think they are interested about the atomic bomb but they really are not, not any more than I am. Really not. They may be a little scared, I am not so scared, there is so much to be scared of so what is the use of bothering to be scared, and if you are not scared the atomic bomb is not interesting.
Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. They listen so much that they forget to be natural. This is a nice story.
That last line is key. We listen to the horrifying events so much that we forget to focus on the natural beauty around us. We don’t focus on the food in front of us. Our tirades spoil our supper.
Speaking of which, I should get this published. Reiner will be home soon and I need to make dinner.
Huh. Just had another thought. Perhaps I should invoke another of the guru’s policies:
Meals are eaten in silence.
Tags: daily post