Do or do not…there is no try

I’m tired. All the time.

Certainly it has something to do with parenting four rather “spirited” children or our move back to Chicago this past year or the strange and untethered nature of our homeschool life, those things would make anyone tired. All the time.

There’s something else though, something more external, I think. I know it’s something else because some days I have the strongest inclination to pick up my family and shipwreck us all on an island far, far away. The world is a hot mess and I’m tired. All the time.

This is why I stopped watching the news. In reality, no one really “watches the news” anymore because “the news” isn’t reported anymore, anywhere. What’s reported is “here’s what happened and here’s how you ought to feel about it” which invariably leads us up and down the roller coaster of emotion for as long as the image lasts on the screen.

I’ll read news stories online still. I haven’t given that up yet. But to be a responsible citizen in my opinion means reading more than one “outlet” of any news event, particularly if it is a political one. It’s responsible because the “where do I place my moral outrage” button is an easy one for any news source to press these days. It’s not about cover ups or the labels of Liberal or Conservative anymore. It’s about manipulation and all sides use it.

We’re human. This is how we’re wired.

Because we’re made for relationship, we’re easy to manipulate. We want to understand, at least for as much as it affects our own family, our own job, our own bottom line. We ought to want to “feel” one way or another about a news event. It is what fuels our capacity for compassion. It is what allows us to leave our selves for a few minutes and be a part of the bigger picture, a fully sanctioned member of the world at large.

It’s exhausting then, to be a pawn in the game played by all traditional media. There is no Liberal media and no Conservative media. There is just the glut of information purveyors, peddling reality TV and calling it “news.”  When we’re thirsty we’re given to drink from the stream of sitcom and 60 minutes. When we’re hungry the meat comes mixed from Jersey Shore and Politico. The air we breathe is the Oprah proton peppered with Fox News electrons. We live these crazy lives of 24/7 information overload and I’m beginning to wonder if that’s something that contributes to our rising need for anti-depressants and alcohol.

It isn’t only the cornucopia of “things to know” which pushes us into the zombie like malaise but rather “what should I fear today?” How much more likely is it that I’ll die early if I eat this Ho-Ho. How much scarier is Iran than I ever suspected? How short and fruitful was the life of the unarmed teen gunned down in Florida? What’s the government doing to screw you over and why should you care?

“What is happening and how should I feel about it?”

It’s easy to feel. It’s a lot easier to feel than to “do.”  We keep that moral outrage button hard-wired into our laptop keys and our remote controls. It is the smudged ink on our fingertips from holding the newspaper too tightly, it is the rising fear  and anger we feel in our heart and our throat and our head when we conclude that we are, ultimately, without power.

How many of us, after having our buttons pushed will actually get up and do something about it rather than open a new page in our browser to complain to the editor or write a blog post or comment on a new article and call it a day? Is that a “do?” I’m not sure.

What strikes me then is that those who actually do something, the people who get up and protest and sit in and occupy, those people are derided. Whether they are Tea Party activists or Occupy Wall Street protesters, these are the people we read about and judge the harshest. While I don’t care much for Tea Party politics I have to say at the very least I admire they’re dedication to “doing something.” They show up, I don’t. I admit that. I don’t show up anywhere. I might write about it, as I’m doing now but truly, after all, what is this more than words on a page meant to  purge my own demons, to assuage my own troubled conscience?

A couple of weeks ago my 9-year-old stumbled across the Kony 2012 video. He watched most of the video before I discovered he’d found it. Since that time every day when we’re out and about he questions me about Kony. “Can he get to Chicago?” “Will I be forced to be a soldier by him?” “Does the army know about Kony?”  He’s afraid but he’s not only afraid. His next set of questions center around “what can I do about this?”  “how can I help?” Specifically he asked if he can help put up flyers about Kony when they come to Chicago. He asks if he can help make the flyers. He asks if there will be a rally or a march about it. He wants to “do something” rather than simply “be afraid.”  As horrified as I’d been about him seeing that video at the tender age of 9 I am also thankful that his response is action and not only emotion. It’s encouraging and it’s inspiring. He was as emotionally manipulated by the video as any adult but his impulse was to “do” and I’m thankful for that.

I think it was Yoda who said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” My 9-year-old has the benefit of that wisdom. I wish I knew what it meant for myself and the other grown ups in my relational circles apart from picking up and moving us all to the desert island far far away.  I’d say I’ll “try” to work on that next but there is no try, there is only do.

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