It is almost ten months since I had a daily newspaper subscription. I occasionally skim the newspaper at work, one that is on the office account. It is placed on the file cabinet adjacent to my cubicle, and I pass it frequently during the work day. I haven't read a current events magazine in even longer than I hadn't the newspaper. I watched television news for the first time in about three months, during the Snow Event from Hell. Even then I was more interested in the weather information than anything else. Even the ubiquity of news streams on the internet has failed to reel me in with any regularity. Some would say that I am really disconnected, when the Winter Olympics was a surprise.
I truly did not know that the Olympics were opening until I read about the torch, courtesy of Captain Dumbass over at Us and Them. I was bemused, to say the least.
I do get my daily dosage of news through radio, on my way to and from work. Usually its NPR News, and the local DJ's (shout out to WTMD! Woot!) reading off local headlines type-stuff. This allows me to have some small knowledge of what is going on in the world beyond my shoulders. I was deeply affected by the earthquakes in Haiti, and continue to be concerned about our military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In general, though, "news" as such...holds little interest for me. Most current events make me weary, like I want to crawl into a cave and wait for things to go away. Consequently, I make little effort to seek out the information. On one level, this troubles me. I used to be a news junkie. I read the paper first thing in the morning, would make sure to read the weekly magazine from cover to cover, I watched CNN off and on after having seen a little of the evening news. I made sure to catch some news on the radio on my daily commutes, beyond just traffic and weather.
Not anymore. Now I typically perk up only for traffic and weather. If I listen, really listen to anything anymore, it is music. As an example, as I write this I am tuned into a station that plays only guitar, classical guitar with heavy Spanish influence. Last night it was Persian classical. Why? I cannot put my finger on it.
What happened? Where did the interest go? My brain has gone in circles pondering this question.
Somewhere in the fog of the last year or so I pulled over onto the shoulder of the Highway of Life. I put on the blinkers and stepped from the car and onto the grassy verge. While watching the cars and trucks speed by, it dawned on me that I was tired, so tired, of the constant gogogorushrushrush of modern life and its dependence on the 24-hour news cycle. A cycle that really isn't that important as the purveyors of it would have us believe, because a lot of it is just recycling the same news over and over with minor variations of information. Seriously, if you were in a situation that required minute-to-minute updates, you wouldn't be watching the damn news, you would be involved in the activity itself. At that point, you don't need any current events beyond that which directly affect the decisions you have to make.
Really, who may or may not be able to play in the Big Game is just not important enough for me to plug in 24/7. It isn't. And it finally dawned on me that I was investing too much time, energy and misplaced righteous indignation in far too many events that truly would have no meaningful effects on my general welfare.
The consequences of this were subtle but far-reaching. Feeding the Info Monkey on my back was diverting my non-infinite energy and attention from people and things in life that really made me happy. I gave short shrift to the true interests of my heart and mind, trying to be an Informed Citizen. Or at least be able to hold a water cooler discussion about anything and everything. This was a mistake.
Trivia has its place, but much of what passes for news or 'infotainment' is just that: trivial.
That which nourishes my soul is not to be found in the 24/7/52 mentality. It can't be gained by parsing out the obnoxious bloviators who call themselves "reporters" and "talk-show hosts". Constant attention to every little twitch in the flow of current events is exhausting and ultimately futile. I have no patience for it anymore.
Information has its place. Knowing what is going on in the world is important, if only to make it possible for truly informed decisions to be made in our lives. This modern world, though, is too often about Shiny Noises instead of Considered Thoughts.
I check in every so often. I'll seek out the information that is critical for wise decision making, but I'm tired of chasing tornadoes. What puts the juice in life for me is the sound of water over rocks or my daughter's laughter in the air. A beautiful guitar passage, light shining through the leaves, pen scratching over paper, the heft of a good book in my hands; by those events and moments contentment is revealed and balance restored to a mind shorting out under the pressure of unwanted overstimulation.
"You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?"*
I have been asking myself those very questions. I do not have all the answers yet, and maybe never will. That isn't the point, and I finally figured that out. These days I want to be on the side roads, the scenic routes, the byways where I can go at my own pace. I see myself on that curvy mountain road high above the straight line wonder down on the valley floor, sometimes I'm walking, other times I'm driving a slow car. Every so often I pause in my stride, or look at the window at the frantic antmobiles whizzing back and forth on the road down there. Its nice I suppose, and if I ever do need to get somewhere fast, I know where to go.
These days, though, there is no place I want to be in so great a hurry, if I'm exhausted and drained by the time I arrive. Somewhere, there are leaves falling into a picture for me to take, and my camera is at the ready. The cars they hurry down there, but up here, I'll take my time. I'd rather know ten miles of byway than forget a thousand miles of highway.
*Do I really have to say what song this is from? It's "Once In A Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. You should know that by now. Shame on you.