I’m not a news person. I rarely read the paper. I don’t watch the nightly news. I dislike things being sensationalized and I am very averse to the dramatic scare tactics the media uses on its viewers.
When there’s a storm coming, I’m usually the last person to know. Well, I used to be the last person. Now everyone knows this about me so they make sure to keep me up to speed. Social Media helps too; I have friends reminding me to buy bread and milk. Not that I buy either, but I do make sure that I have enough chocolate on hand and cookie-baking supplies. I keep my priorities straight.
I’m a private person and I like to take things in at my own pace. When it comes to mindful matters, I’m all about process. Not speed. I need time to ponder and mull things over.
We don’t have the television on in our house unless it’s an event. Meaning we’re all watching something together. Our TV is never on as background noise. I hate background noise. I can’t process anything with background noise. It makes my thoughts swirl like whipped cream on hot chocolate. Starting out rich and piled high on top only to dissolve into the hot liquid. I don’t need my thoughts swirling into nothingness. Most of the time I’m trying to keep them anchored long enough to get my head around them all.
I often have to stop myself from telling the people I live with to be quiet. When I have an idea in my head and my three children squawking at me all at the same time, I’m known to close my eyes to try to hear them. If I’m driving and I get lost, I’m the person who has to turn off the radio to get my wits about me. I do well with quiet.
Sometimes we’ll be sitting at our counter hanging out — eating, doing homework or cooking — and I have to rein myself in to keep from crying out, “Stop! You’re humming.” Or, “What is that sound? Shhhhh. Shhhh!!! Where is it coming from? What is it?!” Picture everyone freezing. Necks craned. Eyes squinted. Ears perked. Breath held. Everyone’s eyes shifting from each other’s faces trying to discern what I’m hearing.
Just last night this happened and my husband finally figured it out, “I think it’s the dog. She’s dreaming.” “Ooooh! That’s what that is.” I had to bite the inside of my lip to keep from yelling out loud enough for my voice to reach across three rooms, up the stairs and around the corner to our sleeping dog. Holding myself back to keep from shouting out, “Topanga, Wake up! Be quiet!” Geesh.
These days I get the news in snippets and pieces and tidbits. I glean a lot of the news from my laptop. My husband is usually my nightly news anchor. I like this because it’s not just news thrown at me and force fed. It’s usually news with dialogue, thought and reflection. I get an overview and then I choose which things I want to learn more about. For better or worse, I guess you could say my news is censored. It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world. I just like to take it in without all of the commentary. I don’t like people telling me how to feel or interpret things. I’d rather go to different sources, gather information and come up with my own thesis in my own way.
I tell you all of this because I find myself surprised by how I’m feeling about the latest Brian Williams crisis. (Even now I’m hesitant to tag his name to any site because it will impart an opinion. So I’ll leave you to do your own search.) I’m sad about it. I like Brian Williams. For whatever reason, I always have. Mr. Williams doesn’t visit my family room on a daily basis. Actually he rarely comes to visit. But somehow knowing that he can’t come and visit leaves me feeling a little down, a little hollow and quite a bit angry.
There are all sorts of articles flying around addressing Mr. Williams’ dishonesty. Theories that question memories and interpret brain behavior. There are experts assessing and analyzing the effects of trauma from being at war, especially if you’re not a soldier and have had no training. We can go around and around discussing how this happened. How Mr. Williams found himself to be in this place. We can ask why it happened. And we can question Mr. Williams’ integrity if we’re so inclined. Whether we’re deemed an expert or not.
Here’s what all of this questioning and speculation and dramatizing comes down to for me, my not-so-quiet voice calling out — “Who cares?!” Does Mr. Williams’ mistake warrant the media’s rampant reactions? I don’t think so.
I ask this not to be dismissive or insensitive to our country’s veterans. Not at all. I say this because I believe that we are all storytellers. All of us. Storytelling is in our human nature.
Events happen to us throughout our day and we make jokes about them. We decorate them. We highlight them and add color. That’s what makes listening to these happenings interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. Did Mr. Williams embellish his story to get more drama or flare? I don’t know. I can’t pretend to report upon that fact or fiction.
I can however write about myself. For instance, as a writer, I’m acutely aware that my words bring my experiences to life for you and I think this is important. If my story draws us together — if we can share it — then we can connect. And that’s what I’m hoping for, connection.
That’s a critical component of being human — connecting to each other. What it comes down to in my mind is this: We all just want to be seen. Heard. Acknowledged and appreciated. Without connecting we can’t tap in to our humanity. We are alone in our own experiences. So much of our sense of self is lost when we feel alone in our life experiences.
There’s that age old question: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?” I think it goes even deeper than that. I think the primary question is this: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it even matter?” Does it matter? Do I matter?
Maybe you think I’m being cavalier about the whole Brian Williams thing. I can see how you might. After all, he is a reporter. His primary obligation is to tell us the news. To report the truth. But this makes me laugh because the news-truth is so subjective. So much of our interpretations depend directly upon how it is conveyed.
Networks make money by drawing people in. How do they draw people in? With flare. With zing. With pizazz and drama. With color. The more drama, the more people turn the news on. Ratings go up. Networks make money off of our human-ness. Our storytelling genes.
Brian Williams is human. He didn’t hurt anyone. I mean literally hurt anyone. At least I don’t think so. Call me naive but I don’t think he set out to do harm. I think he set out trying to share a difficult experience and in doing so, he got carried away and we as consumers fed off of that. Because as humans, as storytellers, as news junkies, that’s what we do. We appreciate a good story. We connect with that and then we connect to the person telling the story.
Are we really going to hang one nightly news anchor out to dry? It seems that we are. And with that I’m left feeling profoundly disappointed in our humanity. I believe we’re pointing the finger at the wrong person. I feel embarrassed about this. I believe we need to look into the mirror and ask ourselves how many stories we’ve told today.
Personally I feel a great deal of compassion and empathy for Mr. Williams. Wouldn’t we hope for the same if we were in his shoes? Compassion for our human-ness and an open, honest reflection on how we connect as people.
We’re quick to judge but grow indignant if we ourselves are judged too harshly or unfairly. There are so many other things worth getting fired up about. How about — Was I honest today? Was I true? Was I kind? Was I loving? Did I own my mistakes? Did I hold myself accountable for them? And at the end of the day, do I like who I am? Am I a good person?
We’ve endured presidents having affairs and lying about wars — spinning their own stories. I’m left feeling curious why we’ve decided to exonerate them but not Mr. Williams with his story. He apologized. He’s tried to be accountable. He has tried to be human.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and feelings. Please just keep your voice down and for crying-out-loud, don’t type too loudly. Thanks!
Take good care.