Monday, August 6, 2007

Fear and Complexity

FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Hmmmm.

I once spoke to a friend of mine who is a Psychiatrist. I asked him if he ever meets people who find out about his profession and try to get a free therapy session from him. What do you do when people start telling you how they’ve been feeling pretty depressed lately? His response was something like, “Well…maybe you should be depressed. Have you read the newspaper lately?” I was a little shocked by his answer, mostly because his reply was so quick that it was apparent that he actually did say that to people. Second because it made me think that maybe I should be depressed.

Have you read the newspaper lately? I suppose it is at least somewhat important to be an informed citizen, but can maintaining a level of responsible citizenship be detrimental to one’s mental health? It is true, at least in terms of your body that you are what you eat. It must also me as true from a mental standpoint that you are what you think about.

This is not new ground. I am not the first to say this. I just want to point you to a fascinating article that has a lot to say about what we are “eating” when we pay a lot of attention to the news. Michael Chricton helps remind me that much of what I might read, hear or see really leaves out much of the truth. The whole truth is much more complex and multi-hued than what is reported. The sensational and tragic is relatively easy to report. The fully rounded and 3 dimensional takes more time and effort on the part of both the reporter and the reader/listener/watcher.

I’ve long been suspecting this about the war in Iraq – that we are only hearing about body counts on our side, but never about any kind of positive forward momentum. We only hear about obstacles, setbacks and difficulties, never about any kind of victories. This sort of reporting is not just coming out if Iraq, but is endemic.

It’s not so much that I don’t trust the news (that sounds way too much like I’m some kind of nutbag conspiracy theorist). It’s more that I just don’t generally find spending too much time with it to be very helpful. When I do pay attention, I now ask myself what the other side of the story might be that’s not being told. I’m trying to be much more aware of the complexity that is the reality of our existence. Evil bad things do exist. So do good and beautiful things, and they often dance an intricate dance around one another. Even if I don’t know what the untold story is, at least being conscious that there is a useful mental discipline.

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