I’m on a mission to dial back the news to a need-to-know-only basis. Even—especially—the news online, but even NPR has drifted into the “I have no use for this material” folder. It is essential to be well informed, but it is equally essential to be able to separate the news from the noise. My stress level has adjusted up during the last, I don’t know, five years, to some higher level of anxiety not at all compensated for by valuable information. Material gathered should be worth the anguish to obtain it. But that simply isn’t the case any longer. Now it is just static which causes stress, which doesn’t benefit me at all.
excuse me while I step aside. It won’t bother anybody if I simply duck away for a while. I can no longer handle the endless stream of garbage reported in media. Don’t pay any mind to me if I move out of the way while I let pass the convoy of criticism and manipulation. I’ll just sit and watch the water and wildlife do their thing, the perpetual movement of the tide. In fact, my health, my energy, and my stress level are all improved by the absence of the nightly news, which I once revered back when it was journalism. And I’m better off without the one-on-one conversations with way too many negative people. I am more likely to live longer, less likely to have a negative disposition, and infinitely more likely to relax by turning away from those discussions. Remember the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?
When I’m at the river and the sun is just changing tones behind clouds in the west, it doesn’t make a bit of difference who the president is, what the commentators had to say, which tweets came from which attention-deficit minds, who bought what company, who accused who of what with whom, what happened first, and what happens next. My phone alert from the NY Times Breaking News doesn’t really catch my attention anymore, and I am far more interested in keeping my blood pressure in double digits and my heart rate closer to my age than my golf score.
When the eagle glides from the tree tops, and the osprey teach their young to fly, and the clouds at dusk separate colors in prism-like perfection, it is hard to remember what the complaining was all about anyway. We carry our baggage way longer than we ever need to if we ever really needed to at all. And the answers we seek in our daily life won’t be unearthed during some pointless pursuit of fair and balanced. Even if I listened more intently to all the facts and expert opinions and came to the correct conclusions agreed upon by Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, what then? So I might know the truth about A and the lies told by B and the injustice we see served to those in need. Again, what then?
I think my students would be better served if instead of watching presidential debates and finding the fallacies, we all spent some time in soup kitchens and the cancer ward at a children’s hospital and then came back and discussed respect and morality and fair and balanced. Maybe we could spend a class talking about the good there is. Let’s write about that. Let’s take a stand and find expert support about that.
When I returned from Spain I was on a mission to “simplify” my life. It didn’t take long on the Camino to discover how little I needed; how superfluous most concerns really turned out to be. As a professor of critical thinking and research writing courses, I found it necessary, pre-trip, to discuss current events and breaking news. But afterwards I found philosophical discussions as relevant as any subject covered by some mass-com graduate reporting from The Hill. I told my students that any fool can gather and argue immigration or trade; but it took real thought to discuss the “matter” of things, the bend of time. “Which works better for you?” I asked. “Ted Cruz said that we need to make decisions based upon faith” or “St Bernard said, “We need to learn to make excuses for other people.” One is a proclamation of how he intends to govern; the other is an edict of how we should live our lives. This led to discussions of driving and working, and we talked about getting along with relatives and partners. People like tangible applications. Those conversations spilled from the class to the hallway.
That’s how it should be.
But time got away from me. When all I hear is the call of an osprey or the way the waves lap at the edge of the land, I could be in so many other places and so many other times. It is innocent, even ignorant some might say.
We live in the age of information, the age of blame, the age of instantaneous and simultaneous where the comment you posted ten minutes ago is now ancient news five screens in the past. It is the age of convenience and the age of emotion, and the age of attention-getting-self-indulgent-everyone’s opinion matters and is valid and is equal and should be heard. And that’s just not true, it is wrong, it is defeatist, and it is destructive, and I’m simply over it.
So I’m done jumping through hoops and trying to walk across coals; I’m simply not built for it. I’ve finally “come ‘round right” and am simplifying my life like I hoped I would when I came home; like I hope I will again. My theory is this: I will be healthier, happier, more efficient, more useful and focused, and infinitely more at peace. Then I might be of use to others, and that is the point, isn’t it?
I love the way the water feels cool on the soles of my feet on a hot afternoon, or how the saltwater gets on my lips and seems to stay there all day, even after I shower. It is as if the movement of the waves exactly coincides with the movement of my blood, and that rhythm somehow settles my soul.
And it really wasn’t so complicated: I just decided to.
I’m going to sip my iced tea and let the river run by for a while. If it doesn’t work out, look for me chasing the windmills in Spain. There, I’ll be in good company, even if it seems a bit too quixotic for some.