How do we form a healthy relationship with “the news”?
We don’t have to go too far back to pre-date the notion of news as the entire world’s most horrific events pouring over us daily through radio/TV/computer/etc. What was “the news” to our ancestors?
I asked my daughters just now, if we were to knock on our neighbor Florence’s door and ask her what’s happening in the neighborhood, what kinds of things would she tell us? She might say that someone down the street from us had a kitchen fire, or someone gave birth to twins, had a miscarriage, got married, broke their leg, or was diagnosed with cancer. What is this news compared with the news on NPR? What does it put in motion?
If we’re not already overloaded with the massive ocean of troubles happening worldwide, we can take these kinds of stories and actually do something with them. People LIKE to help—I’d say that’s a defining element of people when we’re relatively healthy—so news of this sort about people we know, acquaintances, or even strangers who are simply physically nearby, has an element of gift in it. We can walk a meal down to someone who needs it. We can satisfy the desire we feel to help.
But mostly we get stuck inside our houses listening to the endless stream of tragedy happening far away. “A bomb just went off halfway around the world and fifty people were killed including twenty children.” We may feel genuinely horrified if we’re able to really connect with what those words mean, but our innate pull to help can’t grab onto anything, so we’re left with the weight of our longing to help. Heartaches pile up this way and never get to come full circle and work their creative magic. What happens to the part of us that really wants to help (i.e., participate, relate, engage—be fully alive) but can’t?