I have been limiting my intake of bad news and tragedy. To the best of my ability, I have disconnected from most vestiges of “grief porn.” Local news has hitched its wagon to this industry and viewers can’t get enough of it. Popular shows now fixate on zombies and the apocalypse. Americans have a predilection for this kind of thing and television execs know this and serve it up on a platter for mass consumption.
Humans are limited in their capacity to process tragedy and grief—yet, thanks to the media most consume it in unhealthy amounts, with death and mayhem just one remote or mouse click away.
Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton’s book, which came out in the midst of the Cold War and during the nuclear age, coined the term, “psychic numbing,” or “death in life” to characterize the national state at the time. This is in line with another condition, “learned helplessness.” Others have connected these to media consumption, especially consumption of images and stories related to death and tragedy—again, “grief porn.”
By making the decision to tune out the distant and impersonal, and focus on the immediate, and work on being conscious of the things going on around me—some call it “being present,” I find that I’m less agitated, and I’m not wound up about things I can’t change.
Instead, I’ve decided to focus my energy on the things that I can do that affect change, in my own life, in the quality of life I have with the people I love, and outside of that my small circle of friends. Does this mean I’m burying my head in the sand like an ostrich? No, of course not. I live in the world and I want to know what’s happening in the world. I’ve just assumed control, and am acting as my own gatekeeper for information. If I take in bad news and tragedy, I’m more likely to access it in ways that I can manage, with some contextualization of the event(s).
There’s a song that we used to sing in Bible class called “Brighten the Corner.” There’s a great deal of truth in that song, and I think it hammers home the point that we can brighten our own corners. Maybe our personal sphere of influence isn’t much greater than that. However, there is a rippling out from each and every brightened corner that’s cumulative and can over time, have a profound, positive effect.
Is government the problem? I don’t know. Since we are responsible for government, then perhaps we’re the problem. Is it necessary that we trade liberty for safety? Does our fixation on terror and the way that government manipulates our fears benefit us in the long run? You probably know my answer to that one.
What can you do to brighten your little corner of the world?