As I lay in bed last night, I had one of those existential moments.
I allowed myself to step out of the box of my yesterday, today, and tomorrow and wonder with God what it means to get it right — what that box is all about, and how mine fits into the billions of others of present and past.
I reflected on the danger of following the news...and the much greater risk of tuning it out.
There's a lot going on. Iran has tested a long-range missile. The Senate is set to pass a new immigration law. The House, I predict, will then turn it down. Usama bin Laden releases another tape, determined to prove that modern cavemen read the news. Mexico's President Vicente Fox crosses the border. President Bush pledges to defend Israel. Congress approves new sanctions on Palestine. Madonna mocks Jesus on a cross. Thailand's floodwaters swallow hundreds. And Katharine and Taylor want to become our Idol.
That's all bigger than you and me combined. For as much as we worry, complain, shout, or cry, it is happening. Watching it happen from afar, or even up close but senselessly, can sap energy and form calluses. That's the danger at least.
The bigger danger is to tune it all out and go our not-so-merry way. Human psychology allows us to block things out for a very long time. Think about our own life. We can work hard without knowing why we sweat. We can rush around without asking ourselves ultimately where and why we want to arrive. We can even fight for survival without caring to live. But someday we wake up and must confront the questions we tried to avoid. Why does this all matter?
Either approach — entering aimlessly into the world of news or pretending it doesn't exist — results in quiet suffocation of our vitality. Eventually, we lose the spring in our step and the glimmer in our eye.
My thinking took me further. There's a third way. I know there is. Sometimes I just forget. It is looking at the news for what it is — a story of real people, of converging lifeboxes, like the personal one about which I wondered as I lay in bed. If a headline has made the news something happened to someone, and it happened for a reason. That's why it matters to me.
Then, I think some more. If news matters because it's about people, what about the news that never makes headlines? It's all around me in my family, friends, and co-workers. Is it any less important?
As I drifted off to sleep, I thanked God for all of you. I asked him for the gift of caring less about my lifebox and more about how it converges with yours and with others'.
Whose lifebox does yours converge with? With them, you can make good news. Who knows? Someday, it may even be headlines. Even if it doesn't, sleep soundly; it's still important.
God bless, Father Jonathan
Write to Father Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.