Terrible news stories threaten our basic humanity and sanity on a daily basis. There is so much to grieve for, so many lives ruined or worse, taken away, and for nothing. Racism, xenophobia, and bigotry abound. Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Florida, Reno. Sandy Hook, which took place fewer than 30 minutes from my apartment. The news punishes us for paying close attention with overwhelming anxiety for the state of the world.
But it’s more than the news. It’s the reaction to the news, the callous, thoughtless tweets and statements made, the petty arguments, the reactions to the reactions, the cruelty and inhumanity and total hostility. The lack of empathy in the world. The dwelling feeling that the universe is inherently cruel and nothing will change, that you will wake up another day this week to another tragedy or crisis, another friend directly targeted or another group unfairly prejudiced, and, by this point, you know that feeling is right.
But you feel selfish when you decide to avoid the news. Have to keep your finger on the pulse, have to monitor everything. Can’t be without knowledge. Not knowing means not caring, but you do care. You care a lot, perhaps too much, for other people. “You’re a feeler, like me; you absorb the feelings of the room,” my therapist said once. You feel the high happinesses and glories, but when doom and gloom dominate every corner of the news, you take it all inside you and curl it up until it disappears. You prize happiness with your life.
You wish it were as easy for you to not care as it is easy for all the heartless and careless, the ones who cause all this to happen in the first place.
There is a way out, though. The world is a hectic, chaotic place, and nothing is certain to last in our lifetimes except us. From studying existentialism in college, I recall Sartre’s Nausea. When all around you appears confusing and exhausting, look within. Stay calm inside the eye of the storm, knowing that your life is the only thing that is truly yours. If you erased all knowledge of the things you cannot directly influence or change, it would leave you with purely auto-biographical knowledge. You are you. Invest in others, but hold on to yourself, too. Remember to help yourself up first when your life is threatened. Avoid the news if it’s taking such a mental toll on you. Spread goodness through how you treat others. That’s the most we have control over.