I heard a presenter yesterday on ABC Radio National discussing the anxiety that pervades our culture and the results that has on our health and well-being. He made the point that our over exposure to the media through newspapers, the internet, news feeds to our smart phone, radio and television add to this anxiety. News is often conveyed and created to distract us and focus our attention and engage us in thought and emotion. News is conveyed in ways that draw us in and engage us with the provider of that news. This makes sense to me and coheres with my own experience.
I have been a news addict for years and in this I follow in my father's footsteps. Like him I'm prone to anxiety and I add to this a sense of inadequacy together with a desire to bring a degree of control to life. This is of course to follow a set of illusions and a set of all habits that do not any more fit the sense of who I have become as someone set free from the illusion of a separate autonomous self. In the past I have given up attention to news and the other ideas and articles that fill newspapers printed and online and discussion and opinion programs that present 'trending ideas'. For the past month I have been on a news 'fast' rather like the 'fast' I have been on for some years from alcohol.
This has a spiritual component for me since I do drink alcohol at Mass but not elsewhere, (in the Uniting Church its grape juice for Communion). If I pick up from conversation information about a significant item that I need to know about from the news I will look that up for prayer and for conversation with others. Then from 'Arts and Letters' and from back editions of the 'Guardian' online and other source I can learn what might enrich me in relationships.
This is a good form of practicing silence and it brings with it a sense of liberation together with a sense of incomprehension that I was so attached to news and had a belief I needed to know.
I'm re reading 'Pessimism' and the author Joshua Foa Dienstag offers the experiment of reading 3 day old newspapers to see how uninterested we become in the passing excitements of the day.