On not reading (a lot) of the news

Simcha Fisher hits another home run with her blog post at the National Catholic Register, “Dealing with Fear.”

Oh yes, fear.  Fear is exhausting, and it sucks all the joy out of the day.  There are some practical things you can do to relieve fear over the state of the world:

First:  when the source of our fear is the news, there is a really simple solution: Just turn it off.

Until about a year ago, my job in communications entailed keeping very up-to-date with the news — both secular and within the Church — and what the commentators and blogosphere was saying about it. I wrote about. I got up at 5 in the morning for it. I strove to find “the Catholic angle” in it and distill it for others to read. It was exciting, and exhausting.

Contrast that with this summer, probably somewhere around trimester 3.5, when I mortified Luke by admitting I didn’t know what Mitt Romney looked like. (Though to my defense, seriously — is there anything distinctive about his looks, even?) “You’re one of those people,” he moaned, meaning, I assume, the ignorant American masses even one step below the 20-somethings who get their news from The Daily Show.

I realize there must be a balance somewhere, and that apathy is different than “be not afraid” — and that cynicism towards any political ideology is hardly the peace that passes all understanding — but honestly, I’m pretty happy with my how-I-get-the-news routine: scanning Facebook; maybe — if I’m feeling particularly worldly and not at all still in spit-up covered pajamas — heading over to the New York Times; getting distracted by the travel and food sections; going through the (very) small handful of news-related blogs I still subscribe to in my Google Reader feed. And that’s it. When I stopped working, it felt so freeing to purge that feed of the dozens of sites I was reading several times a day. (Included in my slimmed-down feed, though, are a couple bloggers whose opinions might not always match mine, but who talk about faith, life and politics in such a way that makes me think they’d be genuinely enjoyable to have dinner with.)

Fisher’s last point on perspective — that, actually, yes, the world has been this bad before, but that Christ has already won the victory — also resonated with me. Trends, regimes, policies — good and bad — come and go. Poll numbers are fickle and transitory, even the ones that seem to offer so much hope. I mentioned earlier that I’ve been finding Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion eye-opening; part of that is the perspective it’s given me on the resurgence of conservative Catholicism in the U.S. — the hope-filled rally of orthodoxy, nuns in habits and schools like my alma mater. Truth, I believe, is enduring; triumphalism is not, and who’s to say that what might seem to us like sure signs of victory aren’t actually the crest of the wave as we bear down into another cycle of history? (And what would we do then? Shake with fear in our little online Catholic enclaves, or press on and cling to the One Thing that is eternal?)

Maybe my “meh” approach to consuming the news will change someday. As a once-upon-a-time journalism major, I do feel some faint inkling of responsibility towards keeping myself informed; as a mother and a taxpayer, I do care about the direction of the political winds; as a Catholic, I do care about the multitudinous ways that current events will inevitably touch upon the life of faith. But I have no desire to step into the constant, streaming onslaught of infomania that is the 24-hour news cycle. And I’m okay with that.


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