“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see we cannot think. The purification must begin with the mass media. How?”
—Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966)
We interrupt our regular election coverage to bring you something a little different.
It's a meditation. A guided meditation for people who are unhappily immersed in news.
After a week in Alberta election Twitterland, I sure can use such an exercise—and I'm betting you can too.
This meditation comes from, oddly enough, San Francisco. Awhile back KQED, San Francisco's public radio station, asked author and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn to make a guided meditation for news addicts.
It's less than five minutes long. You can listen here.
After 9/11, Kabat-Zinn went on a six-week news fast—no newspaper, TV, radio. He found that, well, not much had changed when he emerged.
"You can miss six weeks of the news, and it's like almost any six weeks of the news will replace any other six weeks," Kabat-Zinn told KQED. "The same maniacs are saying the same stupid things over and over again and they're being decoded by all the pundits and everybody's got something to say and a lot of it is just totally empty."
Sound familiar? This feels doubly true in our social media era and perhaps quadruply true during an election.
My friend Peter Hemminger put it another way last week after the election was called.
"Remember—you don't have to immerse yourself in politics to be well informed," he wrote on Twitter. "You don't have to hear every development the moment it happens. You don't always have to respond."
"That isn't to encourage apathy. Engage, but at your own pace, in a way that respects your mental health."
My friend Peter is a wise dude.
So, I am taking Peter's advice. The Sprawl is hitting pause for a few days and going quiet on social media. It's Spring Break and I'm taking a few days with my family.
This is in keeping with point #3 of the Sprawl Manifesto: “In a world of noise, we embrace quiet... We go quiet so we can return with journalism that’s worth your time.”
Yes, there are urgent matters at hand in this election and Sprawl freelancers are digging into those as we speak. I'll return Thursday to an inbox full of stories.
Until then, take care of yourself. I mean that—it's really important.
Because here's the truth: We're of little use to anyone when we're flying off in all directions.
Jeremy Klaszus is editor-in-chief of The Sprawl.
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