Over the last few weeks, I found myself traveling more than I have in the last few years. While staying at hotels, crashing with family, eating out at restaurants, I had the chance to watch a few days of local broadcast TV news.
We cut the cord and switched to 100% streaming services some time ago at home. Without cable TV, I seldom watch broadcast news so my information concerning the real world comes from places like the New York Times, local newspaper articles, word of mouth, or, gasp, books.
I often naively try to be a bit of an optimist so watching the horror of the world depicted on TV was rather troubling and left me wondering if our little blue marble floating through space was even going to make it.
Let’s just say that by the time I finished a daily dose of 30 minutes of “news” I began to question if everybody really was going to die in a fiery ball of chaos, while wearing adult diapers, taking their Type 2 diabetes medicine, protected behind their high security systems in their homes hopped up on immense amounts of valium hoping to fade out into a state of perpetual bliss while watching puppies skate on ice as they sucked down their daily allotment of Soylent Green via a wide straw.
I fear that watching the news and constantly being told that life is hopeless, that things are going badly, that crime is rampant, that your neighbors are dangerous, that the weather is next and just wait until YOU SEE WHAT’S IN STORE FOR YOU…might explain why so many people feel an overwhelming sense of dread and find themselves struggling to see a way through the monumental hurdles facing them in today’s contemporary world of dopamine stimulating hit after hit.
But then, because this is a blog about thoughts and musings, I happened to read a quote from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus that said, “You become what you give your attention to,” and it made me go hmmmmm….
As much as my foray into the dark and somewhat depressing world of broadcast news was, I quickly returned to my normal routine of coaching CrossFit, walking my dogs, reading my books, and living my daily, unplugged, cable free existence.
Where, while traveling, the majority of what went into my brain was garbage and depicted a world fraught with excess suffering, painful decadence, unnecessary strife, depressing inequality, and aesthetically vapid existences, my world with the gym and the people in it provided a significantly different flavor of mental sustenance.
Being surrounded by the people at Fairwinds provides me with a daily dose of folks who suffer; who face painful obstacles; and who struggle with strife in their lives. But these same people also find a way to persevere and thrive. They choose to do hard things because hard things are worth doing. That’s a different kind of reality and it’s the reality that I had started to take for granted until I went a few days without it.
Sure, one could argue that by ignoring the version of the world that is on TV to avoid learning some kind of hard truth is actually choosing a life of ignorance rather than honest awareness.
But I would challenge that it’s not ignorance, it’s a choice about where to place attention.
The reality is both versions of the world are true. They clearly exist whether I choose to see them or not. Therefore, the choice I have is where to place my attention and how that attention eventually determines who I am and what kind of life I live.
The garbage on TV screams for my attention, removes me from a life of presence and asks me to pay attention to things that I can not control. Therefore, from my perspective, the question is not whether I need to know about the next winter storm pummeling some state a thousand miles away or the current political scandal hovering just over the horizon but instead it’s a question about whether to …
I imagine, ultimately, that is the only choice we have ever had and which choice you make comes down to what you choose to give your attention to – pay attention to the good stuff, I think the outcome will be good.
Let all that garbage in? Well, I think we can expect some of the same garbage to come out.
See you on the Creek.