need to know…

Ever since this Rupert Murdoch news broke I’ve been ruminating on the big-ness of it-  the interconnectedness of all things media, the erosion of privacy, the veneer of integrity…it’s troubling, to say the least.

Each time I tried to write about this and about the plethora of crazy happening in the world at this point I find myself stymied. I type paragraphs of hysteria, I build metaphor upon metaphor and then make liberal use of my backspace key. The “move to trash” button has become my new best friend. It all seems meaningless, one more voice pontificating on the effects of stubborn politicians, injustice in the justice system, media posturing and widespread scandal. I don’t wish to add to the cacophony and yet, that got me to thinking about the need to know.

I spend time online because I have a need to know. I want to hear about what is happening in the world and the internet is obliging. I need to know and I think I’ve become rightly suspicious of the usual suspects where news sources are concerned and so I search and I find. Often what I find is more that leads me to question and in general I’d judge that as a good thing but lately it is only unsettling. I find that what I’m really searching for is one “trusted” source who will tell me the most basic thing, “Do I need to know this?” but in reality what I’m really asking is, “Do I need to worry about this?”

It’s probably accurate to say that it fits for me, I need to know if I need to worry. I get why people would pick one pundit, one news network, one columnist and take them at their word. It’s a great deal of work to hone away at the brick wall of information in front of us at all times. Everyone has an opinion, some express it with such eloquence we cannot help but think it’s accurate or with such fervor we cannot doubt their sincerity. But I think we need to doubt, we need to question. I’m beginning to see that doubting and double checking and asking questions is about the only control we still have.

I wonder then how many people simply give up that need to know, push away from the buffet table of news tidbits and just retreat into the commonplace, the everyday. Heaven knows we all have enough to handle in our own personal lives. It might be easy to give up this need to know, it might be easy to just take Hannity or Olberman’s word for it and move on. Maybe what we give up isn’t the NEED to know but rather the desire to know. We stop looking because it’s just far too overwhelming, all of it.

That sounds dire. I promise I’m not the conspiracy theorist I might appear to be at the moment at least I hope I’m not. I realize as I unpack this that when I leave behind my desire to know consequently I also begin to relinquish my ability to hear and my need to speak. I find that when I’m overwhelmed I inch away and I think to myself, “I don’t understand it and I don’t know what to say.”

I wonder if that is what’s been bothering me most in light of the world made crazy- the Caycee Anthony trial, the debt ceiling debate, the phone hacking scandal…this is just the short list. The desperation I feel when I’m greeted with all of the world made crazy leads me right into the arms of a bin of dark chocolate and the potential for heavy drinking. What else can we possibly do when we read about how deep the scandal goes, how poorly the case was tried, how little influence we have in our government. If our reaction is to pull away even as we cannot look away, what chance do we have in the long run?

Now clearly, the ability to listen goes hand in hand with the desire to know and the need to speak. I’m not advocating that we continue with our bad national habit of latching onto a singular thought all pit bull-like and damn the rest. There is no getting around the fact that we going to have to hack away (no pun intended) at that wall of information in front of us, I’m sorry, we’ll just need to do the footwork here.

We’ll have to try to see things from as many perspectives as possible to get to the roots of a thing. When we start asking the questions out loud that need to be asked, when we start voicing our concerns out loud that need to be voiced, in person, on Twitter, in letters to the editor, we’re sharing what we’re hearing. It’s hard work, being a citizen of the world. The world is bigger now, for all of us. It’s not only our cul-de-sac or our cubicle. It’s India and France and Libya. It’s oceans and deserts and people starving on the other side of the planet. I’ll risk inflicting the proverbial ear worm by saying this- we are the world. It’s true. We ought to be paying attention, it’s important we pay attention here.

Cultivate again your desire to know, strengthen your ability to listen and act on your need to speak.

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2 thoughts on “need to know…

  1. Very thoughtful & insightful.

    I do think though that there is too much to know. I’m an information junkie but over the last few years, I’ve been making conscious decisions to ‘sit out’ certain events, certain news stories.

    It’s easy to cut gossipy trashy stuff. Just run it through the filter of: does this affect my life? Does it affect the planet? Other than losing face at the water cooler by not knowing about lastest celebrity gossip, does it actually matter? Will this matter years, months from now? Heck, will it matter tomorrow? Is it particularly funny? If not, I tune out.

    It’s harder with big world events, but even there, I sit some out, because I’m just too full of other things. Recently I sat out the earthquake in Haiti. In the more distant past, I sat out the Balkan wars. That one was tough for a political science grad & int’l relations addict….but sometimes, sanity requires us to step back and trust that others have this.

    This is where it helps to cultivate some sources of info and analysis that you do trust. Does not mean you’ll always agree with them, of course; but if you know them long enough you’ll know their biases (which we all have) and you’ll be able to glean whatever level of info you need.

    In day to day life, I use the concept of Subject Matter Expert all the time. I don’t want to know about electronics, or cars. I don’t want to have to research them. There are certain people for whom these topics are fascinating & I just pick their brains when I need info. Or you might have a friend who knows about health, or fitness, or environmental pollution etc etc. Rely on them.

    I believe that in order to stay sane, sometimes we have to stop taking new info & give ourselves time to process the info we already have. The news cycle is so short now, that the barrage of stories is overwhelming.

    I’ve also been reading about computers and the brain & I suspect that this constant barrage of online info is creating attention deficit, as well as addiction. I think info junkie is no longer a phrase. We get a little dopamine squirt every time something new & interesting pops up & I think we start craving it & we’re constantly skimming, skimming, skimming, looking for that next hit…..

    While I’m not really sitting out Murdoch, I’m not following either. I’ll wait for the weekly wrap up’s in The Economist. I don’t need all the details…..

    ttfn ~

    • Yes! This is all good stuff. I’d agree that sitting out on some news is vital. It’s funny, watch commericals from even 10 years ago you and you begin to see how our ability to pay attention has shrunk so greatly! All cuts are quick cuts now. It’s crazy.

      I LOVE the subject matter expert idea. One thing I think that comes of speaking about things is that we are better able to seek out that “communal” element of a topic. We begin to hear what other people are thinking and feeling. This is not to say that we then merely subscribe to their way of thinking but rather that we can identify who really does have their finger on that pulse.

      I take a great number of economics issues to a good trusted attorney friend who, as a hobby, follows these things. It’s good to have smart friends who care about these things deeply. 🙂

      Thanks for your insights. They are vital.

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