If we are what we watch, I need to watch the water for a while

Thanks to Brandon DeVito for his Wednesday Photo of the Day. Madawaska Pond is worth watching.

Thanks to Brandon DeVito for his Wednesday Photo of the Day. Madawaska Pond is well worth watching.

I was watching an ad for a firm that uses DNA to trace ethnic ancestry, and the spokesperson said that having this information would help to give her a “sense of identity.” I turned to my wife Terry and said, “Sense of identity? No problem. I’m the one on the inside, and all of you are on the outside.”

But that is not entirely true. It’s been a violent, angry, scary, anxious week in the country, with nothing to reassure one that next week will be any different. The political season is a toxic swamp stretching beyond the horizon. All the screens before my eyes are full of people yelling, or weeping, or running for their lives, or staring at devastation. And the words of the professional explainers tug at the heart, inviting one to bring the awful outside within, to empathize, to “identify.”

What do we do when, to paraphrase Tom Robbins, the world situation is desperate–as usual? Psychologists endlessly advise us to “own our feelings”–and that is good advice–but what about those feelings that don’t arise from within our actual circumstances, that are shopped to us relentlessly in the virtual world?

There are practical basics that can help in the moment, like deep breathing, or like taking a break from the 24/7 news channels and social media, where endless repetition of the awful adds no new information, only reinforces an infectious feeling of desperation. And there is the traditional American standby—taking a vacation—something I will be doing after the coming week.

Curiously, that is something many fewer of us plan to do. A Siena poll this week found that 42% of New Yorkers plan to take no time off at all this summer.

Bad plan. When else can we take some time to sort out our own anxieties from those we have borrowed from the rest of the planet’s suffering multitude? When else can we stop obsessively watching the distant disaster and start watching the nearby water?


8 Comments on “If we are what we watch, I need to watch the water for a while”

  1. Jim Benvenuto says:

    Great post, Dale, and so apt today. Thanks for that.
    P.S. I’ve been mis-attributing that quote to Vonnegut–I stand corrected.

  2. Thank you so much, Dale, for your post…so well expressed for what a lot of us are feeling these days…

  3. Cara says:

    Yes!! Thank you.

  4. Dale, this could be your best post ever; it certainly expresses what I feel from a constant diet of “the awful,” especially in this toxic election cycle. As to the Siena poll news that 42% of New Yorkers plan to take no time off this summer, I can only hope that in most cases their reasons are like mine: I prefer to go during more temperate weather and when things are less expensive and less crowded.

  5. Ken Hall says:

    Perhaps the 42% of NY’rs not taking a vacation this year (likely for a number of years past/future) is indicative of the actual percentage of folks in dire economic straits left out of the rosy economic recovery which the middle, upper middle and obscenely wealthy are purported to be enjoying, via government handouts, subsequent to the economic collapse of 2007/2008 which was engineered by the very same group of bankster/gangsters who are now doing so magnificently.

  6. Pete Klein says:

    I second what Ken says.
    As to what Dale is referencing, it’s more about stupid and insane than it is about evil. Criminal minds are 99% insane minds.
    Taking a vacation won’t solve the “Breaking News” problem for most people because they will remain “Connected” with all of their “Smart Devices.”
    To understand “Devices,” you need to break the word down to two words: De vices.
    To calm down, just remember “This too will pass.”

  7. Thank you, Dale. These are difficult times, perhaps especially so for kind, generous, and thoughtful people who work for peace, tolerance, and cooperation. We all need a vacation, and I hope yours is peacefully enjoyable.

  8. Paul Hetzler says:

    Thanks, Dale–well-put.

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