My mom skyped me yesterday (skype now being a verb in the same way that google has now become a verb) and the first thing she said to me is, “Where have you been?”
“What do you mean where have I been? Since I got back from Switzerland a week and a half ago, I’ve been here, Mom.”
“No, I mean you’ve been silent”.
“I have not. I talked to you several times last week.”
“But you haven’t written your blog. It’s like you’ve dropped off the face of the earth.”
I smiled to myself because I thought it was funny that my mom looks forward to reading my blog when she can simply talk to me any time she wants. And I put forward a few lame excuses like “I’ve just been so busy”, or “it’s been so beautiful here I haven’t wanted to spend my days indoors”.
But in fact, I finally had to admit that in light of all the horrible things going on in the world today, the little details of my life seemed just…so….little. Inane, trivial, trifling…insignificant ( I know I’ve got a thesaurus on this computer…I’m sure I can find more adjectives!). I’ve written pages in my head as well as in my pocket notebook that is with me at every moment. But the words have remained lodged in gray matter or between two laminated cardboard covers where I felt they belonged.
While in Switzerland I heard (tardily) the news from Japan. I read a little about it but we didn’t have a television and, of course, I couldn’t understand Swiss-German commentary on the radio or read the newspapers. And I happily went on with my pleasures.
When I returned, however, I began watching the news. Incessantly. French, American and British troops begin their strikes in Libya. The Japanese people, devastated from their losses after the earthquake and tsunami and the entire world in danger from the nuclear power plant disaster. Syrians being murdered in the street because of their basic human need for freedom. And I have continued to stare at the television like a rubber-necker at a traffic accident.
My first year here in France, I was blissfully unaware of the goings-on in the world. I had no television and, of course, I couldn’t read the newspapers. I slept like a baby….for the first time in years. I haven’t slept so well in recent weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I am not, by nature, a worrier (I have my friend Mary to do that for me). I have been blessed with an innate sense of optimism that I’m eternally thankful for. But I’m beginning to think that The News is a sort of insidious culprit that plots to steal my sense of well-being.
My youngest son is a news hound. He reads 5 or 6 newspapers daily. He is so much fun to talk to. He knows about everything…technology, music, world events, history, art…and has very strong and fascinating opinions. I always find myself wishing I were as well informed as he is. I would be so much more…interesting.
But at the same time, he often appears stressed. Sometimes when we’re discussing a political point or an environmental issue, he seems as if he’s fallen into a hole…despondent and without hope. I have actually said to him, “honey, you really need to stop reading so many newspapers”.
The question is, how does one establish some sort of equilibrium? What is my responsibility as a citizen of the world and what is my responsibility to myself and my personal psyche?
Bombs will continue to be dropped, innocents will go on suffering, and we will persist in degrading our environment, whether I know about it immediately or not. On the other hand, if all the world keeps it's eyes open (including me), freedom might possibly be gained by hundreds of thousands of hopefuls in the middle-east and elsewhere, we might persist in finding a way for the suffering to nourish and heal themselves, and if we pay attention…really pay attention…we could find a way to exist on this planet without insisting that we destroy it in the process.
I don’t know what the answer is but as of today, as an experiment, I’m going on a mini-greve. The TV is off this morning. It’s going to stay off. My new strike from the news is going to mean I probably won’t be able to participate in meaty conversations about the current status of nuclear reactor #4, the question of where Gaddafi really is, why some dumb-ass French minister referred to the situation in Libya as a “crusade” (please, monsieur, think about the connotations of the word crusade for the Arab world), or the fascinating life of Elizabeth Taylor. It’s not that I don’t care about these things (this excludes the fascinating life of Elizabeth Taylor). And it’s not that I don’t have more than a little guilt about trying to surround myself with pretty flowers and soaring cherubs.
But for now, it’s going to have to be this way. And I will get back to writing my blog. While talking to my mom about this, she reminded me that in a world of bad news, there’s nothing wrong with a little humor. A break from the constant barrage of negative information that pummels us moment by moment is not necessarily a negation of the trials in the lives of others. Light moments are essential when the weight of the world is slowing our steps and threatening to stop us in our tracks.
So I guess I’ll just continue doing what I do. As small and unimportant as it may be. And screw The News for the next….few weeks. Of course, just this moment, my New York Times headlines update came up on my email...and what did I do? Okay...I'm working on it. It will be interesting to see how I sleep in the next few weeks.
And it would also be interesting to know how you balance the weight of the world with your need for personal peace. Tell me.