In real life, I’m a news junkie. Politics and current events and international happenings fascinate me. I like the idea that I’m informed about the world and can talk intelligently about whatever you bring up.
At least I used to.
Operation Finally Write Your Stupid Book and Cross Off that Bucket List Item
In August, a publisher knocked and encouraged me to write a book. Oh, hello Universe. Sure, I’ll work on that bucket list item now. I could use a new project.
So, for the past couple of months, I’ve floated, ensconced in my little life bubble. I’m writing a book. I walk 10,000 steps a day. And…that’s basically it. Emails lay unanswered. My blog whimpers, neglected. I ignore texts and phone calls. Social interactions are basically nonexistent. Well, it’s like once a week at most.
I’m a goal-orientated geek. You know this. When I’m in the middle of a goal, a really good goal that excites me, it takes over everything else. This fanaticism asserted itself a thousand-fold for this project. Have you heard of the concept of “flow?”
According to Wikipedia, flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
It’s being completely engrossed in what you’re doing. I’ve never quite fully understood what that meant until now.
With all this flow and chi hugging me, I took a hiatus from reading anything online that wasn’t related to my book. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. The last time I checked in on the U.S. election, I took great comfort in the tea leaves. The poll-readers assured me that a candidate who was not thoughtful and not articulate would not be able to fool the majority of the voting electorate. I hunkered into my bubble and my whole world became my book. Humming happily the whole way.
I know the extent of the current single-mindedness is a bit unhealthy, but, on the bright side, it does seem to be preventing me from going insane.
Stop reading the news lest I go insane
The day after the election, I peeked outside and carnage greeted me.
Uh, what? Not only did the political party that doesn’t believe in science win the executive branch, but also the legislative branch of government. They now have the power to appoint and shape the judiciary branch. That’s all three branches!
I fell into a pretty deep depression after learning this new fact of life. One of the basic tenets of my life philosophy, how I manage Precious, how I fearlessly wander, is my belief that most people are mostly good. The world is getting better. Progress. Onwards and upwards. Civilization will continue and mankind will figure out the extinction-type stuff before we go extinct.
Now I’m not so sure. I’m worried about climate change, women’s health and autonomy, my health insurance in particular, poor people, the economy and, perhaps most of all, the new standard of what is acceptable behavior. A man who mocked a person with disabilities in front of a crowd, who bragged about sexually assaulting women, who seems incapable of making a logical argument is now the leader of the most powerful country on earth.
For the first time, I am beginning to question the soundness of my VTSAX. Everything feels dangerous and precarious. I don’t feel safe from the future. Perhaps this is the unpredictable black swan event that upends Civilization.
I really hope that I can read this post again in a few years and laugh at my hyperbole.
But, in the meantime, I’m taking a coward’s way out. I’m going to continue my news hiatus indefinitely. I read two books this week that I’m seizing on. The first, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, convinced me that the internet is primarily an “environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.” We lose the deep thinking, the flow, because we spend too much time flitting from one click to the next on the web.
Yeah, I do do that.
The other book, The Art of Thinking Clearly has a lot of wonderful dabs in it, but the last chapter is my favorite. The author agreed that I should stop reading the news. He has avoided the news for a few years and reports clearer thoughts, more valuable insight and better decisions.
Since we react more to the magnitude of an event than its probability, we don’t really understand the threats we face. That’s the news illusion. We’re afraid of plane crashes, but shrug off car crashes. Terrorist attacks keep us up at night, but heart disease doesn’t even penetrate our dreams. We worry about things that have a low probability of happening to us.
People design websites, even news websites, to make you click on things because clicks equal eyeballs equals money. Your brain responds to “scandalous, shocking, people-based, loud, fast-changing details.” So that’s what the news delivers. It’s probably not relevant to your life, but it’s interesting, right?
Most of the stuff I read online is useless to my daily life, time-consuming and really bums me out. My day-to-day activities don’t change when I peruse the vast majority of the items I read, but my attitude does, my sense of the universe does.
I’m not entirely convinced that my answer is the right answer. I first stumbled upon this idea years ago and promptly dismissed it. Bad things happen because good people do nothing. I must stay informed!
But whenever I think about the current state of affairs, I feel so bloody sad. I feel panic and shame. This is what the great United States has done in 2016? This is the world we’ve made for ourselves?
Another morsel from The Art of Thinking Clearly that spurred this decision:
“Mankind has always survived, so we will be able to tackle any future challenges, too.” Sounds good in theory, but what we fail to realize is that such a statement can only come from a species that has lasted until now. To assume that our existence to date is an indication of our future survival is a serious flaw in reasoning. Probably the most serious of all.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
I am. I most certainly am.