My World Gets Smaller
I’ve been told there was recently a horrific earthquake in Haiti. My pastor tells me the president’s approval ratings are at fifty percent. Evidently there’s been a change over in congress. Supposedly Google and China are at odds. Oh and Johnny Depp is dead (I read that one on Twitter… it wound up being a hoax).
Other than that I have no idea what’s going on in the world. I haven’t turned on the news, listened to my favorite talk radio station, or opened a paper since New Year’s Eve. This was the resolution I made for myself. And so, what I know of the world I get in snippets: the boldface overly dramatic Evening Standard sign, conversations with friends, a headline I happen to see from the paper the man opposite me on the tube is holding or a dubious Twitter feed. There are no images of mass graves coming into my home while I’m eating dinner. I haven’t seen a lying politician for months. And my blood pressure has probably dropped.
This year long experiment has already changed my worldview in so many ways. I can no longer assume myself to be the most jaded one at a cocktail party as every piece of news hits me fresh. I listen to other people and their opinions more, because I cannot offer my own. And once I hear of an incident, it is the principles rather than the particulars which I am left to think about.
But my favorite effect of not watching the news is I see the things in front of me much more clearly. With the extra time I now have, I’ve made an effort to spend it with the people who surround me in daily life. The truth is, everyone’s life is so dramatic that each person could be their own news show. If broadcasts are supposed to inform us about the events that shape our world, why do we not respond with the same amount of passion when our friend finds out that her husband is having an affair as we do when we hear about a politician doing the same to his wife. How can I honestly say I feel pain for people who lost their homes in a natural disaster, when I don’t even bother to understand why a man outside Waterloo Station has lost his?
I’m not even saying ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and everything will be fine. The truth is I don’t like the idea of being nice for niceness sake, it becomes another excuse for legalism. I think western society’s obsession with the news can be another form of this devotion to the standards of society. We appear to care about the world around us while not actually looking at the issues close to home. It’s like driving in the desert; everyone is looking at the mountains, which are miles away, wondering how the people there can live in such harsh conditions. We almost marvel at the drama of it. What we miss are the folks who we drive past that desperately need a cup of water. Perhaps we are even on our way to help the folks on the mountainside ourselves. But while this is admirable, we aren’t anywhere close to our destination. The fact is, when can’t even get where we think help needs to be without looking around and seeing first where we are.