One of my medical students asked me if I kept up with current events. I somewhat glumly replied that I did as I had been encouraged to do since my early school days.
This young man was very active in his church, and I had a sense that he was more focused on the long term, eternity events rather than current events. This left me feeling slightly soiled, though his question was straightforward and non-judgmental.
Over the years I’ve found that one of the best parts of taking a vacation is the “news fast.” I shut off my phone, put my “out of office” on email, don’t read the paper and ignore online feeds if I go online at all. As it turns out, the world doesn’t stop if I don’t attend to the frantic chant of daily news. However, I feel much better. I’m relaxed, peaceful, centered in the here and now rather than distracted, upset, angry or distressed about events people, politicians and catastrophes that I cannot control.
In the opening chapter of his classic and hilarious book, “Another Roadside Attraction,” the novelist Tom Robbins dropped a line that has stuck with me to this day: “The international situation was desperate as usual.”
It always seems thus and from the aerie of a thoughtful, creative writer, he pointed out the obvious. Desperate has become the norm.
Now I’m not encouraging any of us to become ostriches and bury our heads in the shifting sands of time, ignoring the world around us. Rather, for our personal sanity, stress management and a refreshing opportunity to get a new perspective, a news fast from time to time is as healthy for our emotional selves as a dietary fast for our bodies.
The rock group, Buffalo Springfield once sang said, “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” So if you’re confused, beleaguered, bothered, bewitched and bewildered by the daily news, maybe a little break will be helpful.
It will definitely give you more time in your day. In the morning, I like to get up and read some inspiring words with my spouse, meditate, do tai chi, perhaps do a few miles on my exercise bike, all before breakfast and getting dressed for work. However, I’ve noticed if I take time to read the daily news, local and national, suddenly 20 to 30 minutes are gone from my day and I barely have time to shave, especially if I got up later than usual. Reading the papers on the exer-cycle is one option that allows me to keep up with current events and also get some fitness exercise in.
Overall, though, I’m convinced that the healthier option for me is an occasional news fast for a few days. It’s a hard addiction to break, I realize, with constant streaming radio, TV, online and print news and easier to do while vacationing.
Try to replace news with time for deep breathing, meditation, exercise, prayer, non-political conversation with friends and family, reading poetry, scripture, or an uplifting, inspiring book. Find your center, your soul, your authentic self in these practices.
You might find it refreshing and invigorating, bringing renewed clarity of thought, peacefulness of soul, new perspectives, maybe even an awareness of how the tyranny of the urgent rarely has the power of the eternal.