Jeff Ackerman: Making connections by disconnecting
Easy for me to say, as I sit here in Oregon high above the city of Eugene, but there is a silver lining to the constant interruptions of electricity my Nevada County friends and family have been experiencing.
While those transmission lines deliver our heat and light and all those things we enjoy inside our homes and businesses, they also deliver fear.
Renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said there are only two emotions; love and fear.
Fear, she argues, is responsible for worry, regret, jealousy, resentment, anger, shame, desire, greed, hatred, control, blame, pride and defensiveness. It consumes us, often rendering us incapable of making good decisions because we should never make a decision based on fear.
The trouble is, most of what the media delivers is dripping in fear. And in this 24/7 news cycle it’s almost impossible to escape. It’s why the radio in my truck is tuned to a classical music station with no commercials instead of a talk show that hammers by senses with corruption, gloom and doom.
It’s how I often go all day without knowing that someone in Buffalo was murdered by someone in Boston, or that the sunny weather I was enjoying today won’t last through the weekend, or that some celebrity was in rehab.
It’s why I love to walk on a windy beach, serenaded by a raging ocean and screeching seagulls. It’s why I hike, or ride, or run. Fear has trouble keeping pace once you cut its leash.
Ignorance really can be blissful.
Trouble is, it’s tough to run 24 hours a day and fear is patient. It knows that we’ll eventually sit still long enough for it to catch up. It also knows of our love affair with technology. Most of the time fear reaches out from our own pocket or purse through our mobile phone, which is never very far from our reach.
Oh, how we love our phones.
I passed a bus stop the other day up near the university and every single person at that stop was looking at a phone. And most of them had earplugs, just in case someone might actually want to … hold your ears … have a conversation.
If you didn’t know better you’d think our world was in worse shape than ever and that our end was eminent.
Here are some recent headlines from CNN and Fox; two significant purveyors of fear:
“GOP congressman says Intel Committee chair really does think Americans are idiots.”
“Impeachment hearing showed Democrats have no case against the president.”
“Female bodybuilder, 82, takes down 28-year-old home intruder.”
“Lettuce, pork and Cheese Nips: Here are the recalled foods to keep away from your holiday table.”
“Three big storms to bring snow, rain and headaches on Thanksgiving Week.”
You can probably match the headlines to their respective networks, since neither CNN nor Fox even pretend objectivity and will do whatever it takes to win a ratings war. We are the “fish” and fear is the (click) bait.
The best thing you can do for your own mental health is to cut your cable. The sooner you do that, the faster those talking heads will march toward obsolescence.
I suspect most of you are fine this Thanksgiving week. You probably have a roof above your head and food on your table. The electricity is on more than it’s off, so you are likely warm and surrounded by modern devices designed to make life far easier than it was 100 years ago.
It could be that life is going a bit too well and that our guilt sends us out in search of something to feel miserable about it and when we find it we can’t wait to share it with our social media “friends.”
Even if it’s not true.
Fear and love cannot work simultaneously, according to Kubler-Ross. “We cannot feel these two emotions together,” she said, “at exactly the same time. They are opposites. If we are in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we are in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”
If there is any truth to what Kubler-Ross says, we get to choose and the choice, especially on Thanksgiving, seems obvious.
Sometimes the only way to really connect is to first disconnect and you don’t need PG&E to help you do that.
Jeff Ackerman is former publisher of The Union. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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