Happy Memorial Day 2019 to one and all. We made it to summer!
I know that for many of the more pedantic, rule-sticklers among us, it’s not really summer yet: that will happen on Friday, June 21. To me it is summer.
I know this because I came flying down the stairs on Friday wearing white, a big floppy hat, huge sunglasses and immediately began mixing gin and tonics (query: is it “gin and tonics” or is it, like “attorneys general,” instead “gins and tonic?” One to ponder and comment upon). Regardless, it’s hot and it is SUMMER!
For those of us in the dark arts of education, summer means that we get an emotional and vocational break, but summer has a different vibe for everyone. Put another way, no one ever wrote a song called “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Winter.” Summer should be a time of rest and reflection, preferably in an angle of repose with a cold beverage in our hand. And yet… something now feels unrelenting.
It feels unrelenting because we are constantly under assault from the news, dragged under water by the crashing waves of information that flood our phones and our televisions and our radios. It’s exhausting. In a recent column, the always wonderful Maureen Dowd wrote that she braces for “the endless stream of vitriol coming from the White House, bracing for another day of overflowing, overlapping, overwrought news stories about Trump.” The whole endeavor of politics today feels staggering.
This is why, when I give book talks, people beg me for a solution: How, they ask, can we feel better? There’s only one solution and I can see the skepticism on people’s faces when I say “You should become a nihilist.”
KIDDING! In all seriousness, we should keep caring about the world around us, but at the same time we should unplug from the news. Walk away. Take a breather. A recent article by the fabulous David Von Drehle uses a deeper dive from The Guardian to make the case that we are becoming consumed by the news, which is weird because news used to be the thing that we consumed. Because there’s SO MUCH news, the most valuable commodity is no longer information; it is mindfulness. As The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman writes:
When the news is hard to come by, there is virtue in putting in the effort to seek it out. But when news is everywhere, and when marinating in it seems to make things worse, what demands effort is avoiding it, or at least some of it. In an age of attention scarcity, living a meaningful life entails not paying attention to almost every important issue; the greatest saints in history were never asked to care about as many instances of suffering as you’ll see if you scroll through a feed of international news today.
Since Memorial Day is supposed to be about paying homage to those lost in combat, I suggest we pause for a moment today and think about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. THEN we should keep pausing to think about other things that don’t rhyme with “Rump” or “Felosi,” trying to be more present with our loved ones instead of more snide, clever, and pissed off with those we oppose.
Take today to reflect, feel gratitude, grill a hot dog or something, wear white, and be more present/ less angry. And one last thing, perhaps the most important request: For God’s sake, wear sunscreen. I get the sense that Mother Nature is pissed off herself and the sun is a bitch.