— From CB —

There are times when the daily headlines roll past like the telephone poles on Highway 30 out of Council Bluffs. Mile after mile, one no different than the other. Who’s shooting, who’s shot, who’s under investigation and who’s demanding one, who’s the big winner and who just died, who went nuts and why.

Most of the news, of course, is about what the news might be if something happens or doesn’t, also the latest statistics which indicate if it will or it won’t, depending on who’s talking. As an engaged citizen, it’s requisite to spend hours digesting the indigestible, with appropriate consequences.

For the most part, we wind up believing what reinforces our prior beliefs. Very few minds, mine included, are changed by encountering an inconvenient fact. Some of us are masters of cognitive dissonance, which we generally term “being open-minded.”

I stay relatively well-informed, by comparison with many of my species, but the violence and madness and drunken cavorting that comes splatting into our living room and onto the rug doesn’t really tell me much. It gives me an idea of who I’ll vote against and which behemoth I absolutely will not patronize. It tells me what news editors think people want to hear. It lets me know what the weather might be tomorrow, unless it isn’t.

What I really want to know is about people’s lives. What they do, how they see things, how they wound up being who they are and who they think they might become. That’s called “soft news” or “human interest,” and in political campaigns it takes us to shopping malls or cornfields to meet some carefully-vetted “real people.” And it’s the stuff of confessionals and reality shows, selectively highlighting the key themes that sell, while consigning the immense complexity of each human being’s reality to the waste bin.

We’re each of us a melange of contradictions, incongruities, instinctive intelligence and gaping ignorance, acuity and blindness, beauty and splotchiness — each a culture, a library, a language unto ourselves that manages to communicate in a kind of stumbly pidgin to our fellow creatures. The sweetness comes when we can bring ourselves to take a long look, to consider what we see, and to love what’s there to love.

— From the Fool —

People shot each other all over the place this week, but nobody got more than a couple days in the news. They’re going to have to figure out something else to do. The guy who shot seven people only rated a quick blurt of headlines even though he wrote 190 pages, which is really long for a book report.

Somebody threw a baby across the room, but that didn’t catch anybody’s fancy. Somebody stabbed people in the subway, but he had mental illness so that was no surprise. What else could they do?

You could run around naked in church. People are down on Catholics now, so maybe hit the Catholics.

You could do something with hand grenades, if you could buy a hand grenade, which has to be constitutional if you call it arms. But you’d have to put it on YouTube too.

Maybe you could shout FIRE! in a crowded theatre. But people might think it was part of the show. Or you could just start the fire and not shout it.

You could get a bunch of friends to carry AK-47s into the women’s lingerie department at Walmart and just stand there staring at underpants.

You could grow a very scrawny beard and look crazy, so you could be a terrorist just by standing in the aisle of the bus.

You might become a big executive who poisons a million people without knowing it.

You could make a movie where the movie stars really shot each other.

You could call the cops on yourself so they shoot you for holding a cell phone in a threatening manner.

But probably people have already thought of all that stuff. Maybe you just have to keep an eye on your cat till it does something no cat has ever done before. Whatever that is. Your cat may be key to your immortality. St. Peter counts your number of Likes.

 — From EF—

Addictions are numerous, sneaky, damaging, and sad. I’m beginning to think there’s such a thing as an addiction to anger. Wikipedia says: “Addiction is the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences.” I think a significant slice of our population are junkies.

Right. Gummint, keep your hands off my Medicare. Don’t extend unemployment insurance, because the bums who don’t have jobs don’t want them. Who cares about the NSA if you don’t have anything to hide? Don’t diss fast food: Triple Cheese is my heritage. And guns are what it’s all about.

So for many, medical care is a chancy fiscal disaster, foreclosure and homelessness are epic, Facebook and Google are happy to track what you say and where you are, and you’re actually getting good exercise walking through your days with a 50-lb. load you can’t set down.   As long as you can go to the mall with your assault rifle in plain view you’re in charge.

And the people who are passionate about defending all this are the ones who are suffering for it, enjoying Wikipedia’s “adverse consequences.” Maybe the consequences don’t feel adverse, because all this stuff makes folks so goddamn mad. Anger’s a rush, it spikes adrenaline, and it’s almost as good as cheering your team when they trounce the opposition.

I remember back in the 90’s when we lived in Philly, and I got creeped out by the sudden swing to aggressive polarization in the subway billboards. “Friends don’t let friends drive Fords.” It’s true: do a search on “burger wars.” Take sides, and deck the losers.

And by now lots of people have gotten really good at this. The arsenal of trigger topics is huge. Given social media, it all moves at warp speed, and God help you if you actually read the comments sections on the blogs.

A lot is written now about the “merchants of fear,” but I don’t see much about the byproduct, the adrenaline addiction. It’s all good guys versus bad guys, choose up sides, and don’t fraternize with the enemy. Every day’s news cycle is a new hunt for the most flammable trigger.

Meanwhile, I’m profoundly grateful for my family, my community, the casual regular web of connection at Hard Core Espresso and the Market, the easy greetings and conversations on the downtown sidewalks of Sebastopol. Each one teach one.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014

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