The News from Without – and the News from Within
We know that we must, to lay claim to any respectability or competence, keep up with the news. That’s why we’ve ringed the earth with satellites, crisscrossed it with fiber optic cables, and created networks of bureaus that inform us with maniacal urgency of pretty much any event to have unfolded anywhere on the planet in the last few moments. We are, furthermore, equipped with tiny devices that we keep very close to hand, and which we tend to check at intervals of between one and five minutes (rarely longer) so as to monitor all unfolding stories in close to real time. We have been granted a ringside seat on the second by second flow of history.
As a result we see a lot more. And at the same time, strangely, we see a lot less. The constant presence of news from without hampers our ability to pick up on an equally important, though far less prestigious source of news from within. We are not, by nature, well equipped to see inside ourselves. Consciousness bobs like a small boat on a sea of disavowed emotions. A lot of feelings and ideas require a high degree of courage to confront. They threaten to make us uncomfortably anxious, excited or sad were we to learn more about them.
So we use the news without to silence the news from within. We have the most prestigious excuse ever invented never to spend any time roaming freely inside our own minds. It is not that the news from without is unimportant to someone (indeed, it will be the most important thing in certain people’s lives a continent away or in a company in the capital or somewhere in the upper reaches of government), it’s just that this news is almost certainly wholly disconnected from our real priority over the coming years; which is to make the most of our life and our talents in the time that remains to us. It is touching that we should give so much of our curiosity over to strangers, but it is poignant that we are forced eventually to pay such a high price for this constant dispersal of energy. We dismiss fragile, tentative thoughts about what we should do next, who we should call, what we really need to do, thoughts upon which an adequate future for us depends – for the sake of the more obvious drama of the moment. But the drama won’t save us, and cares not a jot about our development or our real responsibilities.
It feels counter-intuitive to think that there might be certain things more important than the news. But there is: our own lives – which we have ever more respectable reasons to avoid confronting.