Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Balancing the News with the Good News

"Open to Light." Bennington College, VT. Photo by Becca.

Over the last year, I've been working a lot from home (I'm an online teacher of college writing and a freelance writer/editor/tutor). This work-from-home experience has reminded me how unnerving and powerful silence can be. After breakfast, I begin to crave others' voices, music, some kind of controllable community while I brainstorm, grade or proofread. 

So I've often climbed down my writing loft ladder to switch on the radio at the top of the hour. Each time I hear that familiar NPR theme music (daa-daa-daa-daa, daa-daa-daa-daa, you know the one), I feel like An Adult-- I'm about to tune in to something important!  I want to know what's going on in the world. I will be "an informed citizen" so that I can work towards more lasting good, know what to pray for, work for. Maybe that's why I open my Facebook account daily, too. I don't want to be left in the dark. I long, instead, to be a part of a caring, awake, and aware community. And that's why by lunchtime, I'll have 4-5 links to articles and essays waiting to be read on my computer. 

But here's the reality: most days I've let the mainstream media pull me out to an anxious sea. My work day grows longer--4 p.m., 8 p.m., 11 p.m.--because I stew and get distracted, because I just have to listen to that podcast on fracking in Ohio or read the piece on Monsanto NOW. Or because I'm so depressed and disheartened about the state of my nation and world that I'll stay in bed till well past my alarm.

I've learned to depend on timers and small rewards to keep me productive (and sane). I grade ten essays? I get to eat that piece of raspberry pie in the fridge, or read that snail-mail letter from a friend. Or, every hour I have to do something off-screen, away from technology--fold the laundry, weed the driveway, walk to the post office. I take breaks or else my wrist and elbow, neck and shoulders will pay--but so will my inner peace. And as much as I write and talk about the responsibilities and gifts of being part of an historic peace church, I often have to remind myself that peace starts within--a mantra that greets my eyes now every time I turn on my cell phone.

What small acts of online and off-line kindness
am I nudged to take, and do they matter?
So how to really reach towards a lasting inner peace, even as someone who wants to "speak up for those who can't speak for themselves" (Proverbs 31:8)?

I don't think I need a personal technology monitoring assistant (a job that now exists, by the way): For starters, I could practice the discipline of thankfulness. The Good News can shape my day if I let it, and I need its theme music more than any other if I want to keep hoping and working for a different world. "New earth, heavens new, Spirit of God moving..."

For me, the Good News sings out that lives--including mine--have been and will be transformed through a mysterious Love and a creative Holy Spirit. I am not in charge of this transformation--but I can put Spirit-fueled love into actions. Listening for a still, small voice might be my revolutionary act each day, especially in a social media-driven sense of community. And retelling stories of solution and justice can help remind me that small acts of kindness are happening more than our media will ever let on.

Here are some of my short-term goals: 
1) Name three things for which I'm grateful at the beginning and end of each day, and with someone I love.
2) Do small acts of kindness outside of any screen--put aside a weekly time for this.
3) Downsize to one cell phone and one laptop between my husband and myself.
3) Instead of daily doses of news on NPR or the Internet, seek out more stories/newsletters from people I know who are working towards peace & justice on a larger scale--and speak openly with those who are working for other (sides of) issues.
4) When I do take in the news (perhaps only on Diane Rehm's news roundup?), listen with ears tuned in to some Good News headlines, first spoken by a Good Shepherd, and away from the crowds:

Blesséd is the begging spirit—heaven shall be harvest.
And blessed are they who cry out—I will give them peace.

Loved is he whose heart is gentle—the earth is his to hold.
Adored is she who thirsts for justice—I will go where she goes.

Blesséd are the tender, blesséd is the heart unclouded.
Blessed are those who give their days to peace:
You are my songs and daughters—
You are my daughters and sons.

Be salt—Be light—Be water
and pour out, pour down, my love.

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