If you asked me what I like most about Sundays, I would say it was relaxing with a cup of good coffee and the Sunday paper. As I sat reading the paper this Sunday, I became aware that not only was it not a relaxing experience, I was actually getting wound up by what I read. It seemed that every piece I read was written in such a way as to deliberately generate a negative response. Social benefits scroungers, immigrant families being housed in central city locations; god bothered Americans resisting legislation to control guns, Rolf Harris questioned about sex offences. As I read I became more and more mentally agitated.
Then it occured to me, “I am news junkey!” When I get up most mornings at 6.45, the first thing I do is switch on the radio in the kitchen and listen to Today on Radio 4 whilst I make my breakfast. I eat this in front of the TV, channel-hopping between Breakfast, Daybreak and Sky News to avoid weather forecasts and adverts. When I eventually go to the bathroom to wash and shave, I continue to listen to Today on a small bathroom radio. Then it is time to switch on my computer and start work – too late for meditation.
I pondered for a while on whether I felt compelled to be so well informed about everything that was happening. Would I be any worse off it I was less aware of all the tensions in the world? As a Buddhist I wish to develop empathy, but is there a danger of overload?
I have decided to experiment by substantially reducing my news intake. I will not listen to Today or watch TV news programmes for the next week and see what happens. I began this morning and have to admit that I found it a little difficult but one benefit was plenty of time for a longish meditation with not so many things going round and round in my mind as I sat. Maybe the vacuum will be filled by a greater awareness of what is going on infront of me – that remains to be seen.