I don’t watch the news. Ever!
I haven’t watched the news for many, many years.
The reason that I don’t watch the news is complicated. It involves a great deal of philosophical reflection and while it makes sense in my head, I have difficulty in articulating it. Today I realized something very deep and profound about myself, that philosophy and the world that I live in. And it has all become even more complicated – in an astoundingly clear and cathartic way.
I don’t watch the news, but I do subscribe to Facebook. And Facebook is often a source of news – whether I want it or not.
The first post I read on Facebook this morning was an announcement of a massacre at an elementary school in Conneticut. Twenty children were shot and killed by a twenty-year-old man. A total of 27 people, including the shooter, died in that massacre and for a moment as I read the brief article I actually hoped that world will end next week. I was horrified. I was mortified. I cried.
I cried for those 20 murdered children and the 6 murdered adults. I cried for their families and their friends who now have to face the holidays without them. I wanted nothing but to wrap my arms around my two beautiful grandchildren and hug them and tell them how much I love them and keep them forever safe from all the awful things that can happen in this world.
Why? Why would anyone do something like this? How could this happen?
As my day progressed and I began to see more and more posts about the massacre, I grew agitated. It took me a while to figure out what I was so angry about, but it finally dawned on me that I was angry that this “news” had invaded my Facebook. I go to great pains to avoid the news and here it was, so utterly in my face. There was no erasing it; no un-knowing it. I had no control over its appearance in my – apparently aptly named – “news feed.” And that made me mad. Then again, a lot of things that appear in my news feed irk me and so I started thinking about my philosophical reflections and why I don’t watch the news and what real good my choice not to watch the news was doing and – here’s the kicker! – why I use Facebook.
As I said, the whole news thing is complicated. It started in one of my earlier spirituality phases when I was introduced to the concept of energy and read this passage: What you pay attention to grows. In a nutshell, it seemed to me, at the time, that if I paid attention to the news, which is mostly bad, it would grow and so if I didn’t pay attention to it, I would, thusly, not be contributing to the perpetuation of all that negative energy. I thought that I was trying to be the change that I wished to see in the world.
It hasn’t stopped the news. Nor has it stopped the events that fuel the news. The news just keeps happening and today 26 people were gunned down and I still read about it.
A while later I read another post on Facebook. It, too, moved me to tears:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." -- Mister Rogers
It was just the medicine that I needed at just the moment I needed it. Good old Mr. Rogers. What a beautiful perspective.
And I began to realize that not watching the news was not enough to make the change I wanted to see in the world. I began to realize that the violence in the movies I watch and the books I read are very much the same energy as that in the news. I began to realize that my rationalization that movies and books are fictional, so not as bad, is just a rationalization. I am eating my cake and having it, too.
I started to look for more stories about the incident. I started to look for the helpers. And they were there.
They were so blessedly, wonderfully, heroically there.
I am sickened and saddened by what happened this morning. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain all those people’s families and friends are going through right now.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people that were directly and indirectly affected by this terrifying tragedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the helpers!