This morning someone sent me a video in memory of 9-11. There it all was again. The planes hitting the towers. The burning. The chaos. The faces. All set to poignant music. I’m sure for some, this was an appropriate way to remember, for me it was a smack in the face.
I don’t need to see this sad reminder of hate and devastation. I knew people who died. I am surrounded by communities that lost hundreds to this horror. I’m no stranger to this tragedy.
I’m a bit astonished that we’re approaching the tenth anniversary of 9-11! It’s not just that a decade has passed since that awful day, but it also marks ten years that I have not watched or listened to the news, with a few exceptions.
I was sitting at my desk that morning, when a friend called and said, “turn on the news, something has happened at the World Trade Center.” As a result, I was watching it live as the second plane hit. After remaining glued to the TV, for I’m not sure how long, I finally pulled myself away from it temporarily to drive the short distance to the beach where I, along to the dozens other who gathered there, watched the billowing smoke rise from the towers from afar.
For the next few days, like everyone else, I remained glued to the news whenever I was home. I listened to speculation about what happened, watched the commentaries on how things were handled, and found myself anxious, angry and disturbed by the often conflicting information.
After a few days of this I knew I had to stop watching. I turned off the TV, turned on some classical music, and within hours had reclaimed my equilibrium. It was not that I was unaffected any longer, more that I had taken control of my memetic and emotional environment and chosen how I would respond.
I know someone will ask…but how do you get the news then? How do you know what’s going on? I see the news online of course — at sites of my choosing. I read the headlines and if I’m moved to learn more, I read the rest. I am signed up to receive news alerts, and the husband or friends keep me abreast. But I no longer fill my consciousness with the rapes, murders, house fires, war, starvation or the disease of the day. I no longer listen to someone’s political agenda, spin on the news, or the continuing rhetoric and hyperbole.
In contrast, my mom has two TVs and a radio set to different news stations all day long. She is constantly worried (and tries to tell me about it) about the economic conditions, the tainted food in some far off state, the latest pronouncement about what’s bad for you (often the exact opposite of what she heard last week.) It causes her needless anxiety. But she can’t stop herself, much as I try to get her to watch some mindless TV, or film, or the Food Network (my default station.)
She won’t control her memetic environment, but you can control yours. Decide what information you will allow into your life. It may surprise you what a difference it makes.