I go in cycles with the newscycle. At heart, I am a political junkie, reading obscure articles about the machinations of leaders halfway around the globe. I love and hate CNN and the 24 hour news. It’s fascinating; what will this or that politico do next? Who will lead an emerging democracy? What’s the effect of a weather event on government? But I hate it as well. Not only are all those nitpicky details colossally unimportant in a day or two, but watching the news is a depressing business. It’s so easy to come to see the world only in terms of crime, coups and curiosities.
Focusing on what’s wrong, which is most of what’s news, isn’t inspiring or soul-deepening. If we see the world only through the lens of the news (particularly corporate media), we miss the stories that make life worth living. No one stops the presses for the high school graduation of a student who struggled for 12 years. There are no radio shows about ordinary couples loving one another through decades of babies and dishes and layoffs. And even the crimes that most affect us personally; muggings, burglary, personal assaults, don’t really make it into the newsfeed.
So this Lent, and all through our lives, we have to choose carefully. Remember the song from 1950’s Sunday School? “Oh be careful little eyes what you see…” Of course, the tots who were taught this song had no control over their environment. The real audience for that song was their parents, who could create an environment “safe for the little ears in the back seat”.
Well, now that we are adults, we need to keep watch on our environment. On one hand, we need to know what is going on in the world. Christ came to incarnate the love of God in the real world because the world needed a Savior. We can’t just shut our eyes to the joy and pain of our fellow creatures. It is part of that responsibility to make sure that we get a balanced view of the world; that we listen not just to the voices with whom we agree, but those with whom we disagree. We need to understand the world around us and what we can do to make it better.
But sometimes, we need to turn the news off. The talking heads don’t know everything that is important. There is art and music and dance and literature and even…silence. We need a respite from what’s new to live in the now. The season of Lent is all about stepping back and looking at the big picture; the good the bad, the ugly and the mundane. As powerful as it is to be able to download video from ten minutes ago, or hear the 911 call or follow the Twitterfeed on breaking news, we need to curate those experiences so we aren’t fooled into thinking that the winking screen is all that matters. Sometimes, news makes the world make sense. Sometimes, it distracts us from what is really happening.
With a little perspective, we can choose the input that challenges our preconceptions, changes our minds, gladdens our hearts and stiffens our spines to do God’s will in the world.