“The industry has to convince its consumers of the significance of today’s News, and it has to make them want to come back tomorrow for more News—more change.” C. John Sommerville, ‘Why the News Makes Us Dumb’
There are numerous reasons we should be concerned about how much ‘news’ we consume. C. John Sommerville offers many in his article from 1991. I want to consider one: the very concept of ‘news’—especially as it has become the product of an industry—tends to focus on bad news. We are often served what arouses fear, shock, or even revulsion. And this becomes our daily diet of ‘what is happening’ in the world.
I suggest our response should be more radical than, “Hey, tell us about some of the good stuff!” A problem with news is its focus on the ephemeral. Almost always what is ‘breaking’ is precisely that—something that is new, different and changing.
Aristotle says that all men by nature desire to know. We all have an interest to learn, or in other words to see something ‘new,’ or at least new for us. News and the whole online and social media culture that accompany it seeks to fill that desire. And they fairly overwhelm us. We are served up so many facts, images, and opinions or takes on things, that we barely have space to think about anything else. Charles Peguy wrote that once upon a time when a common man said something it was not what had just been served him by the media.
What else is there to think about? Our culture is so steeped in the ephemeral dressed up to seem all-important that it’s hard for us to picture other fare for daily rumination and discussion. But there is so much more, if we make an effort to see it. This will be difficult because our very powers of perception are jaded and thus almost immune to noticing. So it will require discipline, even a regimen of fasting from the glut of stuff.
It might sound trite, but the quality and richness of our life, and our shared life with those we love, is on the line.
A great reason for hope is nature. Human nature, and all the rest of nature. We can begin by cultivating an eye for the wondrous rather than the shocking; the enduring rather than the passing; the beautiful rather than the enticing. It’s all around us.
The other day I was cutting open a butternut squash. To tell the truth, when I saw the inside—though I’ve seen it many times—I thought to myself: this should take my breath away.
Better than anything I’ll see on the news today or any day, are the simple gifts of living in this little corner of the world, with all the things in it, most especially the people. Somehow I need to recalibrate and refocus my consciousness. For seeing these things anew each day, unlike the news, will feed our souls and raise our hearts. And draw us together.
I wanted to share the joy of butternut squash, so here it is:
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.