Friday, March 7, 2014

How to stop news from ruining our lives – By Alain de Botton

Every day the news gives us stuff that is both interesting for some people and irrelevant to you. So one reads a very insightful article on the prospects for political reform in Pakistan, meaning that if you were wondering whether Pakistan was a good place to locate a new factory you'd be able to make a better-informed decision. Or there are revelations that tensions in the Cabinet are more serious than previously supposed. So if you were wondering whether this might be a good time to launch your leadership bid, this would be a good piece to read. But otherwise...? 
The modern idea of news is pleasantly flattering. Yet it's really quite strange. We keep getting information that isn't really for us to know what to do with. No wonder we're sometimes a bit bored. It's not our fault. 
The news is also rather jealous. It wants to distract you from a private sense of purpose. It would be dangerous if hardly anyone paid attention to what the government was doing, or what was happening to the environment or events in Kiev. But it is not right to go from this to the demand that everyone should be interested in every item at the very moment when the news machine requests their attention. 
Indeed, we badly need people whose attention is not caught up in the trends of the moment and who are not looking in the same direction as everyone else. We need people scanning the less familiar parts of the horizon. There was a time when a particular country in crisis hadn't reached the headlines, when the approved legislation hadn't even been formulated, when few people were interested in coral reefs... These things had to get going, and to do so, they needed a pool of independent thinkers of a kind who turn today's unpromising themes into tomorrow's mainstream, "obvious" topics of interest. 
Indifference to big banner events can be churlish. But it can also be the mark of deep and important originality. Let's treat the phenomenon of not being interested in some stories with cautious respect. 
The news wants you to keep reading, but you also know there are times you should stop. The news is the best distraction ever invented. It sounds so serious and important. But it wants you never to have any free time ever again, time where you can daydream, unpack your anxieties and have a conversation with yourself. 
A flourishing life requires a capacity to recognize the times when the news no longer has anything original or important to teach us; periods when we should refuse imaginative connection with strangers, when we must leave the business of governing, triumphing, failing, creating or killing to others, in the knowledge that we have our own objectives to honor in the brief time still allotted to us.