Upon waking, I open up my laptop and with sleep still flaking from my eyes, I peruse the latest headlines. Scanning the news from various websites has always been an essential component of my morning routine. However, as opposed to delighting my chemical dependence on water poured over beans grown in places of the world that I never plan to visit; this morning indulgence yields a more arcane sort of satisfaction.
Which is sad as I remember when reading the paper was a time of wonder. While I honestly have trouble remembering what I had for lunch the day before, my childhood memories of early morning newspaper reading have been grandfathered into my memory bank; a visual I can recall at a moment’s notice. It truly amazed me at a tender age that information could be whittled down, compartmentalized, and fashioned into easily digestible vignettes of the larger world.
Fully steeped in the news of the day, my father would use his elbow to nudge the freshly molested mound of newspaper in my general direction. Taking it, I would immediately flip to the second page, where the most dense stories were sure to rest. Although I would love to regale the reader with the idea that my intellectual curiosity had me tackling the most impenetrable pieces at such an age, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that it was solely for the purpose of impressing my father. So desperately I wanted him to glance over, take notice of the fact that my eyeballs were neck deep in a story about the suffrage movement blossoming in Qatar and give me a nod of approval. I would have settled for a minor grunt or even a more cryptic but nonetheless welcome, “That’ll do pig.” (I like to think that somewhere my dad is smiling because of my “Babe” reference) After my ostentatious inspection of world events, I quickly flipped to the topics that I could actually wrap my mind around.
No longer sitting adjacent to my father, waiting at his table with bated breath for a gesture of approval, age coerced me into making the arduous decision of whether to invest in the news of the world to “enlighten” my mind, or whether to just ignore it and presumably lead a happier life.
After all, the news is just a smorgasbord of suffering. Fragments of a world aggrieved. I don’t blame the news for this; we as a people are intrigued by tragedy. Or so the internet would have me believe.
A quick Google search tells me that tragic theater became a mass phenomenon, reaching it’s zenith around the 5th century with works by Sophocles and Euripides. An Athenian mass exorcism -a public confrontation with man’s aberrant impulses, e.g., matricide, patricide, infanticide – drew enormous crowds. Emotionally lubricated with Dionysian nectar, crowds were engrossed by the plight of Medea and Oedipus, partaking in a collective catharsis. Immersing their minds in the looming terror that plagues daily existence from the comfort of their marble slab.
Fast-forward a handful of millennia, substitute the marble for a sectional from Sears, oust Oedipus for the tortured souls of the silver screen, and one can see the act of subjecting one’s self to suffering has not abated. In fact, aided by the advent of the internet and consequent streaming services such as Netflix, man no longer needs to venture far to find solace in suffering; he must only muster up enough energy to pick up a remote.
With such a wide variety of poisons to pick from, minds began concocting ways to make their pain more appealing. In vying for the public’s attention, producers needed their agony to stand out among the rest; to make their misery even more miserable. Enter CSI (recently distinguished as being the most watched show in the world), Law & Order, Dexter, & various other serial dramas. Many of which have plotlines that would make Sophocles dry heave into a hefty bag. With the field drenched in blood, news stations couldn’t play ball without sullying their cleats.
Back at my table, the top of my mug begins to lose heat as most of the liquid is now coursing through my body. Although my hands are becoming cold, I find myself most troubled by what my eyes are taking in. Using a word search, I type in a variety of benign words. Searching, the screen occasionally highlights those words that appear on screen. On the other hand, upon keying “death”, “dying”, “terror”, “violence”, my screen erupts with an amber glow. Closing the screen would bring me a modicum of satisfaction, but I seem to be deriving something more from this experience. As the minutes pass and the time carved out for my other morning routines take a backseat to my current endeavor, I swear I can feel the bitter marble against my legs. Because as much as I may be aware mentally, I am still drawn primitively; unable to stifle the urge to crack open my skull and pour in the world’s woes.
Like my morning coffee, the harrowing headlines have become a fix. One I am not particularly proud of, but in the end, one that I cannot imagine my life without.