job at Trinity Cathedral in April 2020. It used to be I'd take a quick glance at the headlines and then rush off to work. Maybe I'd catch up with the news at lunchtime for about fifteen minutes, but then I didn't think much about it until evening when I would watch local and national news. Now, however, what I have discovered is I can literally devour the news for hours in the morning (or until my pot of coffee runs out.) I'll start with the New York Times, move on to the Washington Post, read my local paper, amuse myself for a little bit with Facebook, and then see what the absolute latest is by checking Twitter. By the time you've gone through the cycle, you can go back to the beginning and start over because there are new articles! You see my problem.
Maybe all this would be a harmless diversion if times were better, but given the dire state of the news — everything from the coronavirus, to politics, to global warming, to violence — it is absolutely soul-crushing. It slowly began to dawn on me how much this was affecting my outlook on life, and I remembered the admonition from St. Paul,
"Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)
It is an old saying that whatever you turn your attention to is what will grow. It took me too long to realize my feelings of anxiety and depression were directly related to how much news I was consuming. So, I put myself on a diet. I cut the amount of news I consumed down to a manageable level, and I can tell you I feel a lot better. I don't feel anything less informed about what is going on, but I don't feel like I'm drowning in it anymore. Like every diet, that one sliver of pie is not the problem… it's when you decide to eat the entire pie in one sitting. Sometimes I still blow it, and a couple hours into reading the news in the morning, my neck and shoulders are tense and aching — that tends to get my attention. Where we focus our attention is one of the great issues in life. The psalmist says,
"Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; give me life in your ways. (119:37)
If like me, you found yourself overly anxious and depressed, there can be many causes (some of the physical… be sure to have that checked also), but one of them may be where you are focusing your attention. I don't recommend being uninformed, sticking our heads in the sand when there are real problems, or being a Pollyanna, but we have to limit the amount of toxicity we consume.
I suppose you could claim that technically you are a vegetarian if all you eat is potato chips, but I suspect most vegetarians would tell you just avoiding meat is not the point. The point is adding fruit and vegetables to your diet will improve your health. Just so, avoiding negative stuff is not enough. St. Paul says we also have to focus our attention on things that are honorable, worthy of praise, pleasing, commendable, and excellent. We need to dial down the negative stuff we take in, but dial-up the sunsets, and the art, and the poetry, and people we love, and stories about folks who are brave and kind. I promise, you won't miss much, and you may find you gain a bit more faith in the goodness that is within you and within others. And when you do that, this old world will seem just a bit brighter.