This is not the story I wanted to write. One week left and I have slowly and ever so cautiously slipped.
It is not my usual custom to deprive myself of chocolate or rutabagas for Lent. I do take seriously that this particular season is a good time for deep reflection and mediators, that take many forms, do help. In past seasons, I’ve worked through particular themes or wiser people’s Lenten studies. I have taken on new or reimagined practices (often overcoming some fear) that have stayed with me, like my studio yoga practice.
This year I needed to give up “the news.” I might need to qualify that I mean news from the United States that was sucking the life out of me.
Five weeks ago, I began my Lenten journey with the story of Jesus’ temptation. I wondered in my journal: What temptations rule me? I knew I wasted both my energy and my imagination checking the news—an easy and addictive diversion to whatever I could be doing that would be more filling. Even though it was not my intention to get immersed in the milieu, I had some level of desire to see the drama unfold that was US politics.
I wanted to believe that somehow, somewhere, there are people who are honest in their desire to make the world better for everyone, right? Well, I do want to believe that, but it is not the reason I clicked on multiple news outlets. So yes, I do have less than noble reasons for checking in on the day’s “spin.”
I casually pursued headlines and occasionally listened to cable news elucidation that viscerally affected me. I wanted my side to prevail, you know, the people who share my worldview. I wanted to read that the people who, according to me, misuse their power or privilege are called out by the masses, lose, and even fail. I wanted to hear my own beliefs echoed back to me as I chose shallow and complex engagements over deepening simple truths.
The season of Lent offered me a charge to be better. Change is always possible. Some speak of the parabolic imagination where reversals are possible and sinners become saints and the blind see, see the world as it could be and participate in that transformation. I thought that by refocusing that time I spent that precipitously derailed me, I could develop new relationships with trouble.
I decided to still read the local Times Columnist and watch the Vancouver Island News in the evening. I have seen glimpses of a different way of viewing the news. There was the story about a little dog determined to carry a tree trunk (rather than a sensibly sized stick) along a narrow trail. His owner inspired by his tenacity and sagacity.
I found inspiration myself in the story about a formerly homeless man who has transformed his rented apartment into a work of art with an eclectic accumulation of stuff. Even in this time of unprecedented news making, I find relief in the most constant face of the pandemic where I live, the calm and steady voices of caution and compassion— three women who are provincial and national health ministers. Dr. Bonnie Henry ends each day’s briefing for British Columbia with: Be calm, be kind, be safe.
How could I build a better relationship with troubles? I’ve slowed another anxious part of myself by not checking “news,” or whatever might be tempting that I know is soul-sapping.
How might I build a Lent that becomes a life and cultivate a closer relationship with goodness? I can seek out those voices that are kind and true like our Health Minister and maintain distance from those that are not. I am learning ever so slowly to observe my thoughts, even the ideas that incense me, without commenting or judging or expanding upon them. Let them pass. That will take a lifetime, I know. I wonder if this is the wisdom of building up treasure; the kind that is seen in secret and will be reward enough.
I am reminded of Socrates’ advice for choosing our words: “Is it true; is it kind, or is it necessary?” Maybe I could apply that filter when choosing news to hear—worthy news.