Sunday, July 22, 2012

no news please

i can't tell you how many times in my life i've attempted to shut out the news.  i'm getting better at it.  i'm getting better at noticing that i am a better person without it. 

i am old enough to have witnessed the evolution of news, specifically television news.  my parents insisted that we were in touch with what was happening in our world, so we watched the thirty minute broadcast every evening.  the news was only on once per day and if you missed it, well then you would have to wait until tomorrow.  there was no cnn, only the three u.s. networks.  my family watched tom brokaw.  we never doubted that tom brokaw, in his calm fatherly voice, spoke the truth.

i remember the shifts, they began when i was still in high school with the shooting of president reagan and the space shuttle disaster. all of a sudden, it was all news all the time.   over the years, it just became more frenetic, loud and questionable.

when i must know (and i'm discovering that i really don't always need to know), i still tune in, but i almost always regret it.  the information is almost always conflicting, sensationalized, dumbed-down or mean.  during the ten days we were without power after the derecho, i discovered that the news was pretty much the most unhelpful thing on earth.  it's like they are so used to saying nothing really loud that they completely lost the capacity to provide real (boring) information to people.

so how do you stay in touch with your world without losing your mind?

here's what i do:

i watch and read smart parodies of the news, like the daily show and the onion

my car radio is tuned to npr.  i catch snippets of news between music and programs while going to and from destinations.

i trust that any information that i absolutely have to know for my own survival will find its way to me.  and real stories that inspire me find their way too.

i reread the manifesto penned by meg, specifically, "consume more art than news."

and then i remember that knowing about the events of the world really doesn't alter the way i live my life and serve the world.  the news doesn't call me to action.  i'm in action each day by the way i live my life.  knowing the gory details about face-eating or theatre massacres does not change that. 

anne lamott said it so brilliantly yesterday:

"where on earth do we go from here?

all I can think to do is what we've always done. we work towards peace and non-violence. we register voters. we create art and music in the face of madness. we light candles. the praying people pray: lord have mercy. the meditating people meditate. we create love and beauty as radical acts.  we take care of the poor, and teach people to read and write. and as molly ivins would urge us to do if she were still here, we bang our pans. we rise up, peacefully, take to the streets and we bang our pans and we make a ruckus, and we stop this war, too."