Two months ago I wrote about my latest idea for a news blackout. (Itâ€™s more of a dark-brownout, really.) So howâ€™s it going?
Well, my blood pressureâ€™s probably down. My anxiety level certainly is. Iâ€™m more focused on what Iâ€™ve been called to do: prayer, writing, spiritual direction, the occasional money-making project. Thereâ€™s also an emotional buffer in place: I can scan the news these days with more resilience than I could in the past.
Lately, though, Iâ€™m seeing some downsides. For one, I catch myself thinking things like â€œSeems like the president has calmed down in the past few months.â€ Or â€œCongo is in trouble again? Who knew?â€
Of course, itâ€™s not that the president has become more stable, or that the Congolese conflict popped out of nowhere. Itâ€™s just that I havenâ€™t read about them.
Even more distressing: On two compelling, heart-tugging stories of the past month or soâ€”the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the package bombs in and around Austin, Texasâ€”I barely noticed until several days into the crisis.
That does not sit well with me. These are teens weâ€™re talking about. I have friends in Austin.
Beyond not sitting well, this newfound obliviousness presents a larger quandary. My faith tradition calls me to stay engaged with the world, to care about the lives of all people, especially the most vulnerable. (Iâ€™d put high school students and Congoâ€™s poverty-stricken masses squarely in that category.) If thereâ€™s one theme in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures thatâ€™s almost impossible to ignore, itâ€™s Godâ€™s passion for the poor and at-risk.
And yetâ€¦and yetâ€¦thereâ€™s the lower blood pressure. The easing of anxiety. The healthier state of mind, which not only benefits me personally but equips me to engage with others more deeply.
So it looks like neither extremeâ€”near-total news blackout, near-total news immersionâ€”will work for me. But Iâ€™m wondering where the middle ground might be, and whether itâ€™s too delicate a balance for any human to hit with precision. If I let a little more news in my life, itâ€™s almost automatic to let in a little more, and then even more. Before I know it, Iâ€™ve reopened myself to the toxic maelstrom that our public life has become.
Iâ€™ll probably continue to tweak my current approach. At the same time, I canâ€™t ignore the longing that maybe we all have: for a less intrusive world, a less chaotic world, less toxin in the news stream.
What about you? How are you managing the news these days?