The longer you live, the more events you will live through. Now, we are aware of all of them. Nothing escapes notice or media attention, especially if it is bad. On the one hand, that’s beneficial; people can’t do anything about problems that have never reached their radar. On the other, it’s a burden; we hear of so much we can never do anything about, and yet, as emotional beings, we both want to, and are expected to respond in some way.
I think about this a lot. And I see in myself, a growing protective instinct. I have always been one to worry and fret and feel moved by other people’s pain, especially when it’s visited upon them by no fault of their own. I am not sure, however, that those emotions do anyone any good. In mid-life, too, I see that there’s no end to it. From here on out, it’s going to be one unfortunate thing after another. I mean specifically, in terms of what goes on in the world, in what I get exposed to through the media. Sure, there will be occasional positive, human interest stories that will be encouraging and make us all feel good. But they won’t be the bulk of it.
My issue here is not with the media. I don’t mean for it to seem like that. The horrible, terrible, evil, manipulative media. No. Media is driven by human beings. Not aliens. Even if “corporations” drive what we hear and see, corporations are still made up of people. People are behind it. People are feeding other people the worst possible news and whipping it up into a tsunami froth. I mean that in the greater sense, but also, thinking about it, in the more immediate, personal sense. Other people can’t wait to spill bad news in one-on-one interactions. “Did you hear about [insert whatever horrible event has just taken place]?” I distrust everyone’s motive, whether they’re individuals or media behemoths. Bad news is used like bargaining chips, to gain attention, leverage, and even a weird sort of power.
I am weary. I am not advocating sticking one’s head in the sand. That could be never be possible for somebody like me anyway. I think about the things I hear and see and experience always. Part of the issue is that I think critically; I don’t merely accept things the way they’re presented, or the way they’re spun. I am doubtful, skeptical. I sense I don’t have the whole story or it’s being slanted, or I’m just not in a position to truly understand. I really have no idea how much of the world works. And I don’t just accept the interpretation of the people shouting the loudest or firing the biggest guns. I don’t mean to suggest I’m wholly naive; this line of thought is independent of those events which I see as flat-out wrong, evil, with no question how they should be perceived. Even then, I’m at a loss for why. Nothing I’ve heard satisfies that.
I’m tired of being told, subtly and not so subtly, how I should respond. It all feels overwhelming. And what I see, as a population, is that we run from one thing to the next, and the speed is increasing. Most people seem willing to drop one issue as it fades, and then hop onboard the next. I don’t feel able to drop them. Instead, they accumulate in my psyche. Maybe even fester there. I feel weighted. There is so much in my mind that I wish I’d never heard, things that would have never occurred to me had I not been told them; seen or heard that such things went on, that people could do the horrendous things they do as individuals, as groups, as countries. I know but I don’t want to know. I wish I didn’t have to know.
As I said, I find myself being more protective. I sign into Yahoo email from the UK or Singapore page because many of the news headlines are unfamiliar to me and I am less likely to be unwittingly drawn to them. I do not regularly read or join into online discussions of current events. I am tired of the urgent, dramatic newscasters who pound relentlessly away at every little nuance of every horrible event, urging us to get caught up in the unfolding story and all its unsavory details, whatever they may be. I get the gist of a story and I stop watching. I check back in later.
Whenever I first get whiffs of any unfolding terrible thing, I get a sick feeling and I now see myself resisting more often. Don’t tell me anything more bad. There is no good to be had in learning every possible detail available to know about a killer, for example; who his mother was, what his grade school friends said about him, what stops he made in the days leading up to the event, what items he bought. Atrocity as bedtime story, as beach read. How this could have been avoided. Whatever “this” is. If only, if only. And: “We will never let ‘this’ happen again.”
It doesn’t work that way!! It. Just. Doesn’t. Work. That. Way. Evidently. New bad things happen, old bad things repeat. And we hear about all of it. And we’re supposed to DO something. But what? I personally don’t take much solace in marches, and candle lighting, and ribbon wearing, and writing my Congressman. I know these things work for some people and that’s good. It just isn’t for me. I continue to struggle with this, and yet, as I’ve said, I see myself increasingly pulling back, almost unconsciously putting up protective barriers, ones that conserve my energy for the things I have to do, the things which must come first, all the mundane details of functioning in a life. Then, I do what I can. I’ve made occasional contributions to the Red Cross for one disaster or another. I hope it means something but I don’t know. I haven’t donated to anything to awhile, to this fund or that fund for this bad event or that bad event.
I don’t have a fully resolved answer. I’m working my way through this. I know things I didn’t twenty years ago and it affects how I proceed. Especially now, as I’ve said, there’s no positive end imaginable. It’ll be the same for the rest of my days. There are new horrors out there, waiting in the wings. Of that, I’m sure. I don’t know why. I have no good explanation. For every crappy thing that happens in the world. I doubt I ever will. I think you just come up with an explanation that works best for you. One that allows you to go on.