I don’t watch the news.
I cannot tell you how many times my husband has called me from wherever he is to ask “Did you hear about (insert horrible event)?”
No. I haven’t heard. I haven’t seen, and I haven’t read. He can’t believe that I would be so ill-informed on purpose. I do have reasons.
The bad stuff poisons me. It haunts me actively. My imagination runs wild with the stories, the anguish, the meanness. A normal day can quickly turn to despair just by dwelling on the bad stuff for a few minutes. Many people don’t understand how a person could so willfully ignore the details of what’s happening in the world. Don’t I want to know the details, the repercussions, the facts about what’s going on?
No. Not really.
After the terror attacks in Paris last week I turned on a live stream of the commentary as a search for the attackers unfolded. Paris is my favorite city in the world. I have a friend who lives just outside the city, and I felt like I should know what happened there. Almost immediately I saw a video of a man shot and killed, his life intact one moment and his dead body slumped up against a wall the next. The image was blurred but it’s all I needed to see to know that I had seen enough. I marveled that not too long ago a person could go though her entire life not ever seeing a person die but these days you can sit in front of a screen in your home and witness death on demand. Death used to be more sacred.
The whole day was colored by these images. I imagined this man’s spouse, his children, his friends all watching his life end this way. They will never unsee the images. They might replay them over and over, just to have proof that their loved one walked the earth, that he once had breath, a morbid need to see him alive once, twice, twenty times before his life was stolen away.
I imagine what could have prevented his death. A change of heart by one of the attackers, a steel door, a last-minute fire drill at the magazine offices, a water main break that sent everyone home.
It’s no good, to dwell on the bad. Everybody tells you this. It can destroy your mind, your relationships. Yet I can’t seem to think about anything else when it’s right there. I try – using refocus, distractions, prayer – but the bad sneaks back in.
A while ago, a friend spoke about protecting her mind from evil. She said that she really has to be careful about what she reads or watches on TV or in the movies. She and her husband have a hard time finding things to watch together because he’s not as sensitive as she is. I related to this wholly. My husband has no problem watching violence, war, death onscreen. He can forget about it as soon as the credits stop rolling. Over ten years ago I watched a movie – a psychological drama, not even a horror movie – that I still can’t get out of my mind. I… just can’t.
So I don’t watch. Or hear. Or read. I get the gist, and then I try to put it out of my head. I know that terrible things are happening in this world. I follow the lead of my friend, and this advice:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)
I want to be worked into God’s most excellent harmonies. I may be soft of mind, someone who just can’t dwell the truths of the world, and for my ignorance I may suffer. I may miss the details. I will never be an international journalist. I will not be involved in many conversations about current events past the cursory “Did you hear about…?”
No. I haven’t heard.