Nine out of ten doctors claim that listening to too much news can be damaging to your health. The news can swell your liver, and the bile makes you bilious. Too much news can also affect your heart: some hearts harden; other hearts turn to mush. As for your brain… all the synapses sizzle. And no amount of makeup can hide the strain that etches lines across your face.
I am just one example of a person who for health reasons has had to watch my intake of news. Several months ago, I went through a sleepless period, and the only way I could stop the hamster running round his wheel was to turn on our local National Public Radio station, KRCC. “BBC World” comes on at 2:00 a.m., and the timing was perfect. I would listen some, and the mellifluous voices (much like my parents’ voices reading me to sleep in childhood) would slow the whirring of the wheels.
Not content to hear the news just once, on waking, I would tune in “Morning Edition” and in the afternoon I’d catch “The News Hour,” followed by “Fresh Air,” followed by “All Things Considered.” I would wrap up my day by listening to “The World” at 7:00 p.m. Anger shadowed me. I clenched my teeth. My days were overcast. Finally I realized that I had been over-dosing… on news. I was toxic!
It wasn’t easy to wean myself off my favorite drug, but slowly I cut my hours. And much to my surprise, my mood improved dramatically.
Listening repetitively to an endless string of terrorist attacks (or spewing at both the Republican and Democratic Conventions) is not only depressing but also damaging to your equanimity. Those who shout insults and show no respect for civil discourse, send me to bed where I bunker down and wait for the bad guys trigger World War III.
I’m reading THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent. The story revolves around the 17th Century witch trials in Salem. A multitude of factors, to include Cotton Mather who spoke of New England as “a battleground with Satan,” fed the accusations of witchery, but Kent makes no heavy-handed political parallels. In Salem as neighbor talks to neighbor talks to neighbor and fiction becomes fact, the hysteria boils to a point where only lancing will drain the pus.
Listening to the Republican and Democratic Conventions… hearing venomous partisan charges by constituents of both parties, a mist of Dark Magic envelops me… perhaps I’ve slipped through the rabbit hole and am in the presence of the Mad Hatter. There’s no middle ground. Robert Satiacum, a Washington delegate to the Democratic Convention, was quoted in the 7/27 New York Times’ article: “Angry Sanders Supporters Protest.” When questioned on his position, Satiacum said that he had ruled out Hillary Clinton whom he termed a ‘criminal’ and Donald Trump whom he called a ‘clown.’
Everyone is angry. This cannot go on; we will make ourselves sick. Yes we must be informed, but a constant barrage of toxicity is unhealthy.
Daily, The Academy of American Poets emails a poem to my inbox. Yesterday, the Academy listed readers’ most requested poems during this July. By way of introduction, the editors wrote: “We turn to poetry for meaning, as well as for community that speaks for the human condition and rallies for understanding, empathy and change.” Looking through the list, I found many poems that I recognized. In particular, I read the W.H. Auden poem which he wrote on the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of WW II. Each stanza cranes its neck up seeking resolution. The last stanza of “September 1, 1939” concludes:
Our world in stupor lies; yet, dotted everywhere / ironic point of light / flash out wherever the Just / exchange their messages: / May I, composed like them / of Eros and of dust, / beleaguered by the same / negation and despair, / show an affirming flame.”
A more recent poem, “The Bridge” by Jim Harrison (just published in his newest collection, DEAD MAN’S FLOAT) also seeks the light. Again, the last stanza: So I sit on the edge, wagging my feet above / the abyss. Tonight the moon will be in my lap. / This is my job, to study the universe / from my bridge. I have the sky, the sea, the faint / streak of Canadian forest on the far shore.”
The bridge: We can jump. We can panic and run to one end or the other. Or we can sit in the middle where we can experience the beauty and the collective power of writers who expressed both their angst and their hope.