Where the Bad Things Are

I don’t read the newspapers – ever;  but then how many people read an actual newspaper these days?   Your average Joe Public, whilst suffering the daily commute by train into work, is more likely to be discovered digesting recent world events via his iPad, Smartphone or Kindle.

Old people read newspapers all the time (ones made from actual paper) finding it difficult to break the habits of a lifetime. These very ancient people devour the News (capital N) as though their long lives depend upon it.  They never miss the breakfast, 1.00 pm and 6.00 pm daily bulletins.  In fact, it would seem that disaster, murder and mayhem are just the ticket as you gently while away your twilight years.  Have you got the papers they will intone upon arriving for Sunday dinner, even though you never have the papers.  Put the News on will you, I think all that trouble in the Ukraine could be heading for another World War, the aged person will then add with a mournful sigh, but one which somehow manages to incorporate the gleeful tone of someone discussing the latest episode of EastEnders.  What Ukraine trouble, I will answer, blissfully unaware.  Don’t you listen to the News will be the astonished reply.  Do you not keep up to date with sordid current affairs.  Are you some kind of raving mad, non-News reading lunatic?

Of course the old are not the only ones afflicted by Newsitis – the News virus travels fast.  But yes, I don’t listen to, or read the News, so cart me off to the asylum.  The wisdom of our ancestors is in the saying ‘no news is good news’, which is the mantra I live by, it being music to my non-News listening ears.  I actively avoid anything News-related.  I go out of my way to remain unacquainted with the dastardly deeds perpetrated by my fellow man on a daily basis.  I do this because, unlike the old people (who are past caring) or the younger, rabid, politically active newshounds, I feel the News in a visceral way.  That exciting possibility of World War III conjures up a generation of mothers’ sons turned into war fodder; that deluge of 51 million displaced migrants, floating around the seas, is a mathematical problem to which no-one is ever going to find the answer;  the statistic that breast cancer cases are going up and up year upon year brightens nobody’s day;  the unattractive fact that quite a lot of people here in the UK spend a good deal of their time complaining when, compared to most of the rest of the planet, we live lives of almost perfect ease; the constant flow of reality-star drivel; the latest hyperbolised health scare; the detailed descriptions of terrorist madness.

Enter News media territory, as I sometimes mistakenly have, and you’ve found yourself in a pretty dark place.  Lost, you wander here and there in dangerous woods filled with modern day trolls and various other wicked creatures.  There are unspeakable horrors residing within that cosy looking cottage, hidden away in that pretty copse a hundred yards ahead.  Isn’t it better to remain on that well-trodden path, rather than enter News Land, home to all the bogey men that ever lived?

The News is on a constant 24 hour loop and what’s the most important thing you need to know about the News?   That, in this case, knowledge isn’t power – you can do absolute zilch about any of it.  Think about that.  Why skip from Sky to MSN to Facebook, taking in a steady stream of mostly useless information, the effects of which you have little or no power to control. There’s nothing you can do to stop wars, continuing famine, or that twinge of envy you feel viewing your friends’ sparklier lives on social media. What’s your average well-intentioned soul to do with those feelings of helplessness and existential panic, engendered by an overwhelmingly negative information overload?  Maybe develop a case of spiralling anxiety and mild depression?  Does knowing the whereabouts and activities of terrorist groups a million miles away do anyone any favours – except those who need to be in the know.  Does clicking on miles and miles of vacuous showbiz News make those grey cells any happier?

The News is enormously counterproductive to the ‘living in the moment’ philosophy espoused by so many mental health gurus.  Is it possible to be happy in the moment when beheadings that take place on foreign soils are gratuitously fed to every media outlet, as though they are taking place in your own backyard;  which is why I long ago stopped watching the News or reading a newspaper.

Right now it’s summer, here in my corner of the digital sky.  Today I walked to the local castle (yes there’s a local castle in my neck of the woods.)   On the way back I stopped for a moment and closed my eyes;  suddenly all I could hear was birdsong filling the air and the hum of bees from nearby flowers.  I opened my eyes and realised that the stand out colour in my immediate surroundings was an intensely abundant, living green.  Even though I live in a heavily built-up suburban environment, the overriding sensation was one of peace – and that’s a feeling I’m going to hold on to.

News Land is a scary place – I’m staying where the good things are.

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