Bad, Bad News

YES, THAT WAS MY EMAIL which KQED’s Michael Krasny read during his second hour this morning, which program concerned the effect of bad news on man-in-the-street audients. The show is worth a listen — archive available at (I riffed on the concomitant effect of bad news on the reporters who witness it.)

Many listeners discussed the heartbreak of our instant-everywhere media and the dangers of being desensitized by a flood of horrible real images about which one can do nothing or too damn little. Some said they’ve switched off radios and TV sets and canceled newspapers; some severely curtail their media intake to the non-visual or (more often) The Daily Show. One woman addressed the desensitization issue thus: When she sees the faces and names of American soldiers killed most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan (A”H, PBUT and rest in peace), she “goes into a little prayer for them” — she tries to connect her inner spark-of-what-some-call-God to theirs, to their lives and those surrounding them, and to the hole left by what was formerly their presence.

She says that helps. I believe her.

One of the most difficult aspects of living a “religious” or “spiritual” life is reconciling the universal amazingness of God with the frustrative pettiness of some humans. (“Monotheism isn’t for wimps,” as my old buddy Sputnik sometimes said.) It’s the sort of thing which worried Job, at least until God said, “That’s just the way it is.” It worries me too; these days I’m finding it difficult to keep from turning my eyes away from the horror. (Granted, I’m sort of dealing with a lot right now.) But this morning I discovered that not only am I not the only one who feels that way — I’m not alone in thinking that’s unacceptable. I don’t want to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world; I don’t want to be paralyzed by the knowledge either.

Maybe the answer, an answer, or anyway what my tool-using Mr. Fixit primate brain will substitute, isn’t to switch off but to find something you can do something about. Wherever you live, someone needs help — find them and offer it! (In Sonoma Valley, you can do that through FISH, or; if you don’t have something similar near you, start one. )

Even if we can’t directly affect what enrages us, we can channel that rage to productive ends. It may be hard work — but isn’t anything better than paralysis?

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