Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Need to Know

on June 23, 2017

need to know meme

If you watch the news at all it’s easy to believe that the world we live in is a senselessly violent place where no one is safe. You aren’t safe walking down the street. You aren’t safe in your schools or your places of worship. You aren’t even safe sleeping in your bed. Danger is everywhere; the stories of death and destruction come at us non-stop on the television, in the newspaper, over the radio, down our Twitter feeds, through our friends’ Facebook posts. The unrelenting barrage of bad news often leaves me feeling hopeless and thinking that the world is spiraling out of control.

I hate feeling this way so I’ve thought a lot about how not to. I’ve tried finding my peace through faith and prayer, and while that helps, it doesn’t stop me from getting drawn back into the maelstrom of madness that is the “news”. So, as the above cartoon suggests, I’ve tried to limit my exposure to it. When I am successful I find that my mood improves significantly. But – and this is a big “but” – I often, so often, find myself seeking it out so I’ll know what’s happening, even though I know it will make me feel like crap.

So what is it that I think I NEED to know?

This is an extremely confronting question, and worth exploring. What, exactly, do I need to know about events in my own country and the wider world in order to live my life? What information is necessary for me to have to be a productive member of society?

Do I need to know about every natural disaster, devastating fire, missing person, or horrible murder that happens every day somewhere in the world? Do I NEED to know the details of these awful events, or is it enough to know that they happen every day?

Do I need to know every excruciating detail of every dumb ass thing our elected representatives say and do? Do I NEED to know all the latest scandals and outrages, or is it enough to know that these things will continue to happen as long as human beings are in charge?

Do I need to know every time some heinous act of terror is perpetrated somewhere on the planet? Do I NEED to know who these people are, where they came from, and why they did it, or is it enough to condemn all acts of violence carried out by people who want to hurt others and make all of us afraid?

When you put it that way, it’s pretty obvious that I don’t actually NEED to know any of this stuff. I’m not saying I shouldn’t be aware of world events, particularly if they will have a direct impact on my life, but maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to be quite so thoroughly consumed by it all.

Of course that’s easier said than done. Following current events as they happen is an addiction, and I don’t think I’m the only one hooked. I have tried to wean myself off of the minute-by-minute news cycle but in spite of my best intentions I keep going back to my dealer, the internet, for more of the drug I crave – and hating myself for it. Why can’t I go through life being blissfully uninformed? Would that be so bad?

I think back longingly on the years when we all got our information from a trusted anchorperson on the 30-minute nightly news. We all went about our daily lives, and then, after dinner, we’d sit down and have Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather tell us what we needed to know that day. And that was plenty. We knew what was going in the world, but we weren’t overwhelmed by it like we seem to be now. Sure, the coverage wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it is today – thanks to the miracle of the internet, we can know what some despot on the other side of the world had for breakfast – but dear God, do we really NEED to know all that just because we CAN?

I know that unless I move to some remote island or mountaintop retreat it’s unlikely that I will cut myself off from everything and everyone I would have to in order to achieve that level of disconnectedness. So I have to find another way to stay sane.

Here’s a radical thought, so bear with me. I think that the key to keeping  in touch with the world around me while at the same time keeping my sanity is entirely dependent on my own perception. What I mean is, I can either see the latest catastrophe – whether man-made or not – as a reason to panic, or not. I think we’ve gotten so short-sighted that we confuse what’s happening now with what will happen tomorrow, and the next day. We have lost our ability to look at the long term, to see down the road. We’re so focused on the information coming at us from those little screens in our hands that we’ve forgotten how to look up and really see the world around us. Beloved, the stars in the sky could give a fuck who’s president. We need to keep that in mind. Focusing on what’s eternal is a huge help in processing what’s temporary. This too shall pass.

We also need to see our neighbors with compassionate eyes. We need to recognize that we all want the same basic things – to feel safe, to be warm and dry and fed. To be loved. We sometimes have extreme differences about how to achieve these goals (and what is preventing us from achieving them), and we have a hard time understanding how someone who disagrees with us could possibly believe the things they do. It’s hard, I know. But we have to try. We have to try, with all our might, to love the people we believe are actively trying to do us harm. I believe with all my heart that it’s the only way through this current crisis.

So, when I call my elected representatives to share my concerns about something of real importance to me and my family I will not do so in a state of fear and panic, but in a state of love. I will approach the conversation with an open mind and heart, and I will see the “other” as someone who is capable of compassion. I know this approach doesn’t fit in with the concept of “fighting” the good fight, but I’m hear to tell you, it is the most powerful thing you can do. Look at Gandhi. Look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those men achieved real change, and they did it not meeting force with force, but by overwhelming the resistance with kindness, and gentleness, and with love. We have to do this differently, and it starts with you and me, right now.

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