Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Watching The News

Exertec Health and Fitness Center, Napa, California, USA

August 26, 2014

"We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the world's been turning. We didn't start the fire. No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it.". ... Billy Joel, We Didn't Start The Fire

This essay, Watching The News, is the companion piece to

They're almost impossible to avoid.

The way to work out (I mean the way to really  work out) is to have your full attention on what you're doing. Body / mind / being: it's a complete, total  commitment. During my five mile morning run on an elliptical, I avoid reading (yes, reading: there's actually a bookstand on each elliptical for that purpose, perfectly positioned so you can easily read while you run). To me, it's simply a distraction from being fully engaged with the exercise.


That's something valuable I learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger when he served as Chairman of President George HW Bush's Counsel on Physical Fitness and Sports: if you're not fully engaged with the exercise, you're simply going through the motions  and not deriving the maximum benefit.


What's impossible to avoid, however, are the eight big screen television monitors mounted with brackets on my gym wall, arranged directly in front of my face, each of them tuned to a different news channel. Without turning my head, without looking away, without closing my eyes, without looking down, they're there, whether I like it or not: eight different news channels are right there, impossible to avoid.

So this is what's going on: I'm running five miles, and I'm watching eight different news channels on eight big screen television monitors while I run. I wouldn't watch if I could avoid watching. And I can't. So I watch.

At first I notice the different presentation styles of the news anchors. Some are formally dressed, some casually. Some read their teleprompter with hardly any expression. Some smile inexplicably all the time with a kind of glee, even when reporting natural disasters and grisly war incidents.

If you're confronted almost daily with eight different news channels all at the same time, eventually you get beyond the superficial appearance of the news anchors, and you start to notice the actual content  they broadcast. It's disproportionately skewed towards threats to our survival: earthquake (Napa Valley), volcano (Iceland), brutality / terrorism (Iraq, Syria), never-ending war (Israel / Gaza). There's not ... one  ... single  ... item ... covering breakthroughs which improve the quality of life on our planet. There's not one piece covering the access to possibility (which will turn all the other covered sagas around in a heartbeat). There's not even a piece alluding  to it. That doesn't mean such breakthroughs aren't happening. But it does mean they're not covered on the news.

Pretty soon, if you're in front of this unrelenting barrage daily for days and weeks if not for months and years, you start to question what's really  driving it. Here I'm not referring to the events themselves (although, to be sure, there's certainly some overlap). Rather I'm referring to the unwavering focus of the news on the tragic. It's more than that actually: it's the unwavering focus of the news on the tragic to the almost total exclusion of possibility, and to the almost total exclusion of events and ideas which create  possibility.

On reflection as I pedal the elliptical, glancing briefly away from the eight big screens towards the elliptical's tiny digital LCD  screen just long enough to maintain my speed at 6.8 miles per hour, pulling and pushing the handle grips to keep a steady pace, none of this is surprising. The media's job is not  to relay the non-tragic news. Media is a business. It's a big, multi-billion  dollar business. And tragedy sells. Just like cigarettes sell by causing, then supplying the relief for, an addiction, news sells by causing, then supplying the relief for, an addiction. And the addiction the media deals in is the addiction to survival. When our survival is threatened, it's big news, and consequently big business. And here's the thing: our survival, being what it is, is always and constantly threatened.

Gee! I hope you get that.

You could say there's simply not much money to be made in delivering non-tragic news - and you'd be naïve in assuming the media would be interested in delivering non-tragic news (or, worse, that they should  be interested in delivering non-tragic news). Listen: there's even less  money to be made in covering possibility and breakthroughs in what's possible for being for human beings - at least, for now. For now, the big money is in covering (and, of course, in embellishing)  the tragedies playing out, Shakespeare-esque, on our planet's (all the world's a) stage.


Take note: possibility itself, being what it is, could soon recontextualize  (I love  that word) all that.


There's one more thing, which is this: there's the likelihood that news channel program managers who select what will appear on the news and what won't (and clearly there's a lot  to choose from), may not have the distinction "possibility"  clear for themselves (and in all likelihood, they don't), in just the same way as there was a time when you  didn't have the distinction "possibility" clear for yourself either, yes? Don't make them wrong for it. It's only a fool who expects someone who can't hold a tune or who can't play an instrument, to make great music. It's more than that actually. It's in this particular analogy, the very distinction music  (aka possibility) hasn't yet been teased out.

So when you're watching the news, your choice is clear. Man up: either write off  making the media wrong for not distinguishing possibility ... or enroll them in doing so  (ie shut up or put up).

Watch: what I get as I watch eight channels of tragedy unfolding right in front of my face as I work out on this elliptical (without the luxury of not watching) is I'm the one who brings possibility forth. It's I who gets to create the context  not only for the news items themselves which I'm watching, but also for who I'm being  as I'm watching them. That's my  job. Don't count on the media to do it. They won't: it's not their job. Look: it's also (literally) none of their business. I'm the one, as are you, who'll do it. More importantly, I'm the one, as are you, who can.

And if not I, then who? And if not you, then who?

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