Friday, February 10, 2017

It won't miss me

   Many folks know that I am pretty passionate about hats. Yes, I do, sometimes, wear "baseball caps" (but NEVER "truckers' caps" -- because the mesh backing doesn't work well for bald folks). Mostly, however, I want a hat with a real brim all the way 'round. And, to have a bit of fun with my hats, I often change them seasonally. So, when January rolls around, I trade in December's Santa-Hat for a cowboy hat in recognition of Denver's National Western Stock Show. And, this January, when I changed my Facebook profile photo, someone commented "Longmire!" And, then, several days later, an interview aired on Colorado Public Radio with Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire series of mysteries (set in Wyoming-hence the cowboy hat). Those two unrelated occurrences prompted me to check the first of the series, The Cold Dish*, out of the library.
      I do like good mysteries, and this particular series now holds some interest for me! The characters are well-drawn (and quirky!). It's not that often, however, that, in reading popular mysteries, I run across lines in the dialogue that stop me short. In this case, it was a conversation between two Native Americans/Indians**; they were discussing whether one of them should go visit a mutual friend. In response to The Bear's question "Is [Lonnie] home today?", The Buffalo replied:  "He has no legs, so where would he go? He's home everyday; he watches television? He watches everything. It is as if he thinks the things on the television aren't happening if he's not there to watch?" (p. 146). It is as if he thinks the things on the television aren't happening if he's not there to watch.
 I immediately reached for a pencil. It being a library book, however, it wasn't to underline the sentence, but rather to write it down.
       There's almost a Zen koan-like quality to that sentence, like "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Certainly, of course, events do happen regardless of whether or not they make it to the news-feed. But the sentence started me thinking about how much we CREATE the hubbub which then makes us crazy.  In other words, if our Facebook or Twitter feeds (or TV/radion) are driving us to distraction, why do we not just STOP accessing them? I have gone on a "Facebook Fast" in the past, and I can say that I didn't find myself disconnected from what was going on --- there was always, of course, "water-cooler conversation" that kept me informed. On the other hand, the peace that came from not always hitting "refresh" so that I knew who was commenting on what outrageous thing some politician said . . . well, it was pretty wonderful.       Perhaps I was primed to react to the dialog-line because I had just read a blog post by John Metta (who writes for Medium and Al Jazeera). He titled the post:  "I'm Done Drinking the Draught of Despair." Metta writes that he can no longer keep taking in all of the media deluge: "Drinking this liquid is not helping me accomplish anything. It is certainly not helping me sustain myself for what will need to be a significant and sustained effort. More to the point: it is actively harming me." In the article, he outlines what he will do that is positive; he is not disengaging, but rather engaging in a different way.
        Too many people I with whom I talk are "fried" or "frazzled" . . . and they'll remark about how the "news" is getting them down, how every second "tweet" depresses them, how the "Comments" after Facebook posts are so negative. Yet, if I ask, "Why not shut it off?" they look at me like I just stepped off some planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.
        We don't have to be sucked in. There is always a choice. And it doesn't have to be a choice between opposites; it can be a choice between "A" or "Q", or an apple or banana. There is usually more than one way to say "Yes." After a month of saying "Yes" to my cowboy hat, it was time to say "Yes" again to my gray felt fedora. The cowboy hat will wait 'til next January; I doubt it will miss me.


* Penguin Books, 2004.** You'll have to read the book to understand why I used both terms!

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