Experiments in Chaos—Failures from December 24, 2013

This is the time of year when many people pause to reflect on their spiritual beliefs and evaluate whether their actions are living up to those values. In keeping with tradition, I'm going to do nothing of the kind. But this particular rumble does start out with somebody's beliefs, and is the reason I don't watch the news anymore.

See, I used to be a lot grumpier than I am today. Then, one day, I saw a bumper sticker. It read, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." And it may have been the message, or the moment, or just the exhaust fumes (I'm a little nearsighted), but it touched something within me. And, as you've probably figured out by now, I immediately stopped paying attention. Actually, that works surprisingly well. Ignorance may not be bliss exactly, but there is a certain level of contentment associated with it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not deep or anything. It wasn't floods, or fire, or famine that was getting me down. It wasn't the homeless, or the unemployment rate, or the plight of the whales. It was news specials.

I don't know what it's like nowadays since, as I've mentioned, I don't watch, but back then news specials were all the rage. You'd sit down to watch the news and they'd start out with something like "Our top story tonight, Breathing: Can It Kill You?" And you'd think, "You know, I breathe. Maybe I'd better pay attention." And for something as important as breathing, you'd figure they'd start the broadcast with it. Especially since it was their "top story" and all. Not so.

First, they'd make you sit through some trivia about war or something, and then they'd say something along the lines of "Coming up next: Our special feature on breathing and how it can destroy your life, right after this." And you'd get to sit through about twenty minutes or so of commercials for things you don't want and don't need, but must buy now while the special offer lasts or some nonsense. And, finally, you'd be back to the news broadcast, where they'd tell you "Next: Our special report on breathing, but first let's go to the Middle East where Biff Boff is standing by with an in-depth analysis you won't understand about things you couldn't possibly care less about." And they'd proceed to inform you about the Middle East, the Near East, the Far East, and the Midwest, until you were just mighty glad you didn't live any of those places, because what with the violence, corruption, and inflation rate, what's the point in leaving home?

But finally these people, who apparently can't comprehend that "next" does not mean the very last item on the agenda, would get to the story you'd been waiting for: Breathing. And they'd have a cool opening graphic, and the title would swing onto the screen, which is good because by this time you'd forgotten what it was you were waiting to watch. And the verdict? "Studies are ongoing." Which is a fancy of saying, "We haven't the faintest notion." I just sat through an hour of sad stories I can't do anything about to have someone tell me, "Maybe, maybe not."

So I don't watch the news anymore. If I want to be irritated, I can just look at my bank balance and save an hour.

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