I have been living on Kauai for the past two years. During that time I never seemed to see the news. No one I knew had televisions and I almost never saw a paper. But as we are transitioning our life to Mexico, I have been stationed at my in-laws’ house in a suburban purgatory for a month. This is my vacation to the rest of the world. Here, the news is a part of life.
It’s not that I value being uninformed. Quite the contrary. It is that I value learning what I need to learn without taking a healthy dose of fear alongside it. It is possible to do this, though it does take a bit of work because everyone has a slant, including me.
I got this tattoo a few years ago — a flowering bit of yarrow with the words, “this too with love,” as a reminder of a truth that has healed a great part of me. This truth is that fear and love exist, have always existed, will always exist. They are inside of each of us, but they move in completely opposite directions. Choose one, the other fades. It’s that simple.
I grew up in a different suburban purgatory. It is across the country, but the behaviors were the same. I saw people acting out of fear. Staying in jobs they hated. Buying alarm systems for their homes that were never safe enough. Believing the schools are better when there are no brown or black people there. And the news was always on.
It was different then. We didn’t have 24-hour news channels in the 1980s. We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have a channel dedicated to telling us all the terrible things happening with the weather. But as these things grew in popularity, so did the fear choice.
I am not above fear. My days are a constant question about whether I will move toward fear or love. What I do to reduce the fear is avoid intentionally making myself more scared then is necessary. We don’t own a television. I haven’t had cable since 1996. My daughter occasionally watches a PBS cartoon on our computer. And because I want to be present with my daughter, I limit my time social media when she’s around (I didn’t say “never” and this is not meant to judge any of us who find ourselves just wanting to tune out of incessant demands of motherhood and see what our favorite hashtags are doing — it happens).
However, right now I cannot avoid it. I am at my in-laws’ house and the television shares all of its morning observations as we eat our porridge. My daughter strains her head to turn toward the television. She is captivated by the sounds this strange machine makes. She is pulled to watch the horses drawing British royalty through the streets of London (someone got married there…or something). Like most of us, she is enamored by the flickering lights long before she realizes what has hit her. So I sit there with her. I remind her to look at her food. I ask her what kind of food the horses eat. And then I do the only thing that makes sense: witness the fear and deepen my compassion for every person in its grips.
I do not want the life of a hermit. (If I’m being honest, Kaua’i was a little too isolated for me.) I love the world. I love its venom and I love its medicine. I know that whatever is coming out of that television already exists inside of us. It is all a gift, one that allows us to make the choice: fear or love. You decide.