This one was written by news junkie Greg Gelburd.
So often the morning news is terrible, terrible. A young son is killed by a stray bullet in the street. Drone attacks in Yemen are “successful,” and while an ISIS leader is killed, so are his family of five children and wife; there are photos of their grieving relatives. Then I dwell on the new president, plagued by thoughts I’d just rather not have. I feel sadness seeing lost lives, and I feel anger at news from Alabama of a man released from prison after being wrongly accused and convicted of rape twenty years ago. On the last page, there is an editorial by an ER doctor from Philadelphia on how to tell a mother that her son has been murdered, and there’s a story of how an Israeli surgeon arranged to have a little Afghan girl transferred to Tel Aviv so she could undergo lifesaving heart surgery.
What’s the hardest part of reading the news? Whether it’s on your iPad or in print, a paper delivered to your door earlier this morning, the hardest part is often the ads, and the placement of one sad article next to a happy one. You ask yourself, how can I read this story of the family in Yemen next to an ad for a BMW? Worse yet is an ad for a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park in the midst of a story of the remaining tent cities in Port au Prince.
Is it entertainment, amusement, or a serious dialogue with an editorialist to which I aspire? Is it columns of numbers, hitting percentage with runners on base or the number of three-pointers made last night by my college team? Each of us is drawn into the news for various reasons, some of them even sacred. It has always been difficult for editorialists to place articles on a page, arrange advertisements, make a paper read well, and deliver eyes to the products that pay the journalists’ salaries. I’ve never seen a paper do it well, and I often wonder if there is any intention to not make the reader’s mind and heart bounce like a yoyo while reading and absorbing, contemplating, and distilling stories. “Guard your heart” is scripture, and though written thousands of years before eNews, it warns us of danger before we even unwrap the rubber band or put in our password.
Imagine if we were little minions sitting within our occiputs where our vision is broadcast in our brains; imagine if we were sitting within our ventricles and gastric mucosa where our emotions are felt. What would we see? A photo of an African American child killed in Chicago is projected onto the back of our brain; the image then lights up in our heart, and our sadness brings tears, feelings of loss, grief, and then anger rages up and down, across our brain stem, going back down past our larynx where we want to scream, and into our heart which begins to race to the basement where we store our feelings in sacks like sandbags piled up to keep the rising tides out of our hearts.
Not wanting to be melodramatic, but also not wanting to gloss over this boxing ring that occurs in our bodies and souls each day we absorb the news. Some of us are news junkies, reading two to three newspapers a day, then catching stories or texts of stories that slide across our devices as we open them to make phone calls or check texts from our loved ones. And so these thoughts I share today are for those addicts, but also for the average reader who ventures into the battleground, where stories are placed to draw us away from the Canadian Geese flying over our heads on an early gray day, or away from our children’s laughter or squabbling as they run through our house.
But we do carry these images, still shots, or words lifted from stories, be they sad or glorious, throughout the day, giving us a kind of nagging feeling we never fully identify or understand, coloring the entire day with melancholy and loss.
Sometimes there is a steady stream of conversation between myself and the news. Reading a story of how Ethiopians carry salt via camel across deserts to the market, I’m struck by the full page ad on the opposite side of the New York Times Magazine. “You deserve comfort 24/7.” It’s for a pair of shoes. “No I don’t,” I reply as if the maker of the shoes, of whom I have never heard, is going to answer back, “Oh yes you do.” Reading this article puts me into the heat and poverty of these tradesmen who have been traveling this trade route for many centuries wearing handmade leather sandals. “What if those men wore these sandals? They need them more than I.” Avoiding neurosis seems to be the biggest issue for me when reading the news — not avoiding blisters in my Teva hiking shoes.
This morning, however, I sat still for maybe 20 minutes with a strong cup of joe in my hand, sipping slowly, and in that quietness I asked the Lord to bless this day, at times breathing with my belly as I did as a child, saying His name in my mind as I inhaled and exhaled. Once I felt closer and certainly more at peace with myself and His world, I opened up the Washington Post. I asked Him to sit with me, hold the paper with His hands and bring my eyes to where I would find Him. My eyes danced like a stone skipping across a pond, over the headlines about our recently inaugurated president, gently acknowledging the cabinet choices, the tweets and the news; on any other day, I might have dived right in, letting these things fully envelop both my mind and heart, leaving me totally angry and emotionally spent. Instead, by His grace, that skipping stone led me through the entire first section finally to an article about a former homeless man who had died this week and the couple in DC who had taken him in, literally; they had built a bedroom in their house for him, and had looked after him for his last ten years. He was so engaging that the neighbors called him the mayor of the block. Now this fed my soul and brought me joy.
I turned on Morning Edition with my remote, not needing to leave my comfy chair. I let the rising sun’s light come across the kitchen and listened for several minutes until I had heard enough for the day.
“News Junkie,” Merriam-Webster: “a person who gets an unusual amount of joy reading the news.”
Despite the tone of the news today and everyday, Christ reminds me of hope and faith; it is He who takes me into the depths of a story. He leads me beside still waters, my newspaper folded in my arm, my heart heavy from stories of Nigerian girls stolen from their homes. Sometimes the Lord just cries with me, and the body of the Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who washed up on the shore, is picked up by Jesus, His tears falling upon him.