Let me find the courage to change what I can, the serenity to live with what I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.
The atheist’s Serenity Prayer, sort of
Every day, every hour, like most of the ex-newspaper people I know, I check the news. Several times. Along with the weather. And, if I was hit with a stab of bravado and/or stupidity, I might have bought a stock and I check that every few hours, just to make sure I’m making or losing a dollar or two.
Of course, those were the days before Covid monopolized everything. When the news cycle was filled with Trump, The Virus, Sanders, Trump, The Virus, Weinstein, Trump, Biden, Trudeau and the Teck oil sands development or lack of same, Trump, Warren, The Virus, stock market jitters, Trump, Sanders, the NHL trade deadline, Bloomberg’s billions, stock market crash, Trump, Democrat Primaries and the The Virus. When life was as normal as it could be under Trump and the existential dilemma that is life.
The news stew was essential reading. In the bath, on the can, in bed, at the table when my partner was at work so I could tell her all about it when she came home from work, in front of the fire and during my long walks down the aisles of the supermarket.
How could I decide between brands of glucose/fructose, carrageenan and guar gum, milk solids and artificial flavour and colours masquerading as ice cream if I didn’t know who the Canadiens traded or the latest pejorative adjectives used to describe the new atrocity of the man masquerading as president? Could I wait at the pharmacy, the doctor, for an elevator, ride an escalator, sit in a restaurant or be stuck in traffic if I don’t know the latest toll of the virus?
My former colleagues and I attribute this masochistic perversion to habit and a professional fascination with what goes on in the world. My friend Jim says he can’t help it. In the last cycle of insanity – impeachment, Russian inquiry and Mueller – Jim admitted to watching TV almost 24/7, while his wife threatened divorce. He was like a guy at a slot machine without silver dollars, pulling the handle endlessly until his shoulder gives, or, in this case, his marriage and his sanity.
Thing is, when we were working newsrooms, if we didn’t write the news, we edited the news, from reporters or the stream that poured endlessly from the wire services. So, knowledge of who said what and did what and complained about same was essential so our readers could know who said what, did what and complained about same.
For example, when the city was buried under 35 cms of snow, we had to write and edit stories about the city being buried under 35 cms of snow.
If there was an election we worked late into the night, so that next morning, people who had seen who won and who lost on their TVs, could read who won and who lost in the paper. Sportswriters wrote who scored and when, added a couple of quotes from whatever jock had been cornered in the locker room to address the press for the people who had probably watched the game and saw the same jock talk to a cluster of cameras, microphone and iPhones on their TVs and phones.
Yes, there were probably sports fans who didn’t see the game or hear about it on the news; voters who didn’t see the results on TV or radio and snowed in citizens who didn’t know they were snowed in.
Somehow, though retired, us former deadline junkies have not lost the addiction and need to know what there is to know. And now, thanks to cable and wifi, we can watch four or five news channels, read a dozen newspaper accounts and, when we’ve swiped and clicked through all that, start all over again.
Don’t retired airplane pilots need to keep flying and retired men and women who had been chained to an assembly line for 35 years need to find an assembly line somewhere and keep on bolting bodies to frames, seats to floors?
Now, in the news cycles of the last three years, some of this addiction can be explained by the simple fact that we are living in a time that defies explanation. “Did you see what he said, did, is going to do, wants to do?” Accompanied by a shake of the head or a short, sad laugh. I get it.
But it dawned on me one night, after binging on what the Canadiens might or might not do on trade deadline by listening to and reading speculation from a dozen or so people who knew about as much as I did and reading the latest litany of disasters that has become our oxygen that I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING.
Naomi Klein tried. She wrote bestsellers about our rapacious capitalists and their political allies. She predicted perfectly what Trump is doing now to circumvent laws, regulations and line his pockets under the smokescreen of the virus. Helen Caldicott toured the world warning about nuclear proliferation and Bernie Sanders had had enough and was going to start a socialist revolution in the U.S. He tried.
The rest of us sit and read and watch and fulminate, chew our cuticles and tell our partners when they come home exhausted from work all the reasons they were probably happier at work.
See, unlike us retired news junkies, they’re too busy putting bread and butter on the table to worry about THINGS THEY CANNOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT.
Global warming? Yeah, I’ll separate my cardboard from my glass, my leftover tuna from its empty can, maybe wash it, and I’ll save the planet. I won’t drive to the supermarket 11 kms away. I’ll … I don’t know. What will I do?
Yes, Trump eats steak with ketchup, guzzles diet Coke and is ignorant and stupid, a racist and a fascist. And those are his good qualities. He is wreaking havoc.
I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT EXCEPT LOSE SLEEP AND BORE MY SPOUSE.
Oceans are climbing, fires are raging, storms are proliferating.
I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
Sorry, storm’s coming. I have to put out the recycling so it can be shipped to a third-world beach. Then check the weather again.