Navigating the News

While I was on vacation, I made a concerted effort to limit my news intake. It was easier because I was on the beach or in a new town and wanted to explore the area, go to restaurants and museums, or take a hike in a nature preserve.  I regularly take the New York Times News Quiz and only did marginally worse so I guess I read enough of the news to stay informed. I consider myself a world citizen and I feel like I should stay informed, but through the Internet I can read about events all over the world—a lot of news. I had to draw a line somewhere.  

I set some ground rules for myself such as deleting whatever headline tried to provoke, enrage or otherwise jerk me around emotionally.  Political news across the spectrum got deleted.  Certain political figures who were known for saying outrageous things got deleted. That was easy.

The harder part was finding my way through the rest of the news and how much should I take in on any given day.  I could easily spend two or three hours perusing through a lattice of news going from one topic to another.  Most were interesting but still, I didn’t want to spend that much time on the news.  I tried setting time limits even going so far as setting an alarm.  That didn’t work.  Some days some articles were of more interest to me than other days.

I tried monitoring my emotional reaction to the news and assess when ‘I had reached my limit’ of good news and bad. 

It’s a challenge. I haven’t found a foolproof method yet. I think it’s more of an ongoing process of finding the middle.  

I tried finding articles that gave me different points of view on the same topic. How did articles that were left, right or center sound?  Could I pick out the biases or logical fallacies in reporting? Am I aware of my own views? Can I really listen to views different from my own?

The Buddha talks about the “thicket of views” and warns against arguing against other views.

The Buddha tells Vachagotta that any position one can take is …

a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering … and does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening ….

Other people have said things such as:  “Don’t believe everything you think” (Larry Rosenberg saw this on a bumper sticker) or “Open mouth Already a Mistake” (Zen Master Sung Shan).

It’s fun to have opinions though—they keep the conversation lively.  In any case, it’s impossible not to form them.  The question is whether it’s possible not to be overly attached to them. 

In our culture, we’re encouraged to have opinions, to take a position and to defend them.  However, we’ve become so divided we can’t even listen to each other. We don’t want to hear ‘the other side’ and we say disparaging words not just about the views but the other person.  I must admit when I get carried away, I can say all matters of things about people who hold different views from me, mostly political.

We’re less than nine months to the election and the news will get more and more electric, full of hyperbole, with outrageous statements and accusations.  Can I steer clear of the worst of it?  I doubt it.  I know I’ll get drawn in sometimes.  

The best I can hope for is not to add to the hate in the country—not to spew toxins into the atmosphere, even if no one else hears them but me.  This is the time when skillful speech gets its greatest test.

What is your greatest test?  How do you avoid a “thicket of views”?

damp thicket

Damp Thicket” by John Brighenti is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

Photo by he zhu on Unsplash

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you Erica. Since reading your email i have become very aware of my choices and even when I seem to have no choice, which is when I listen or read news out of habit.
    I really like “The best I can hope for is to not add to the hate in the country”.
    In my Extinction Rebellion group we often get carried away with putting down leaders/police/ politicians etc in an articulate and almost playful way. Its held as a fun thing to do.Insulting them!! I now try not to do this unless its in a considered appropriate way… with a purpose. We too have an election looming here in Australia.This will be a test to my new resolution!!

  2. Your posting on News is written as though it comes from my heart. Navigating so much negativity today without being drawn in, is the challenge and lesson for our soul. Thank you Erica for expressing this so well. Each awareness that we have regarding our emotional reaction is a win. As many of us can truly start thinking from the heart, we are changing the world by raising the frequency.

  3. Thanks Erica, for your well expressed wisdom. We in Canada get involved in American politics, daily , as well. When enough is enough, time to shut it off, but too often I get overly involved. Love your reference to the thicket of views. It makes me more aware of my actions of over exposure to the news.
    Thinking about you …hope all is well with you. Always enjoy your blogs.
    Thank you, Dianne

  4. Thanks Erica for your article. We just got back from 3 weeks in FLA. Two weeks were spent visiting with friends and family and the last one was spent on a cruise ship with thousands of people. I didn’t intend to take a news fast but it happened. I was offline for a whole week and that was a nice vacation too. I used my device to take pictures of beautiful people and places. These are the memories that will live in my heart as precious news. All of us are getting older and we try not to take anything for granted. I am blessed and highly favoured by the God of my understanding and still I found myself grumbling about the “crowds” of my entitled surroundings. Lovingkindness prayers all around….it’s a noisy world and to focus on the peace within is a lovely daily practice. So many opportunities…so, so many! Happy Spring to you and your loved ones!

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