The news will still be there

I’d needed to write something similar to this after the shootings down in Connecticut last December, but never got beyond a few notes. Today’s apparent bomb explosions in Boston have brought this stream of thoughts back to the surface.

So I was procrastinating this afternoon, down to the wire, trying to avoid the inevitability of writing the Annual Report of the Music Committee, when news broke that there had been explosions in Boston near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I wish I’d had something more cogent to say than, “Oh for fuck’s sake, not again.” Bu there it was, there it is: another tragedy, another act of senseless violence, another breaking round-the-clock news story.

And before I finished my draft, the story was on continuous loop – rumors flashing across cyberspace like lightning bolts in a storm-wracked sky. How many dead, how many injured, was there another bomb somewhere else, did they catch the person who did this thing… Confused and conflicting reports intercut with video of fire and destruction, and earnest people earnestly reporting that they had nothing new or confirmed to report.

I am as susceptible as anyone to the twenty-four-hour news cycle, hungry for ever more information at the push of a button. Intermittent reinforcement keeps us clicking to reload the news pages like a rat in an experiment, hoping that this time there will be something new, some information, some answer to the great questions about these terrible things.

It’s not good for me. I highly doubt it’s good for anybody, this constant exposure and re-exposure to sensationalized events. Soon the mind and spirit grow numb, too much too fast. The horror of reality becomes little more than a sort of reality television, something to watch, something to see what happens next, without a connection to the people who have to deal personally with the blood and sweat and rubble and emptiness.

And when our emotions rise, overwhelming us distant observers with the urge to Do Something, we have a tendency to pile onto the tragedy of the week – fueled at least in part by the round-the-clock exclusive coverage of whatever happens. It is easy to latch onto what seems to be the most important thing happening, because it is the loudest thing happening.

Take a moment. Take a walk. Have a cup of tea. Hug your pets / kids / partner. Make something. Clean something. Breathe. The news will still be there when you get back.

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