Within hours of the event, dozens of fingers hammering on dozens of telegraph keys sent the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to all the major cities across America and Europe. Away from major metropolitan areas the news traveled more slowly. Even a major event on the scope of a presidential assassination took days and even weeks to arrive in more remote locations.
Today we are bombarded with news and pseudo news almost instantaneously, and we feel slighted if there is not video to accompany it. To say that the news and reporting businesses have changed could be the understatement of the decade. These organizations must now survive on clicks, rather than traditional advertising. There is no time for fact checking, proofreading or in-depth research. To survive in that business, you need to be out there first and be just a little more sensational than your competition. Accuracy be damned, there is another story coming in the next 10 minutes and by tomorrow we will have moved on to another crisis, real or imagined.
Atrocities and absurdities, events from around the globe … things that I have no ability to affect, change or cure. If I allow myself, I can be overwhelmed by stories that are less than news, stories that at their core are nothing more than schoolyard name-calling, except the participants are elected officials, not children.
I can muster up all the righteous indignation and outrage that I want, stew over perceived stupidity, create posts on Facebook and other social media outlets, only to raise my blood pressure and offer no solutions, comfort or aid to anyone over stories that may not even be accurate or based on half-truths. To say that something is this or that does not make it so. To publish it online does not bolster its accuracy, honesty, or credibility.
Abraham Lincoln once asked this question to a group of religious leaders who had come to petition him, “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? ” He answered his own question with this response, “Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
Mimsy and I go for a walk on this last day of 2018. Like all Japanese Chin, she has a fine tail, it arches over her back with long feathery plumes.. FoxNews or CNN (not to mention even less reputable news feeds) can call it anything they want, but it is just a tail and Mimsy will never have more than four legs.
Here is my prayer and resolution for this coming year.
Lord, make me small, contract my world. Help me to focus on the people that I can look in the eye or shake their hand, from family members to those checking out my purchases at the grocery store. I will do my best to not overreact to some half-baked story before all the facts are in. I will try to expend my energies not on Putin, U.S. politicians or political correctness absurdities, but on mustering patience with co-workers when I’m not feeling particularly patient. Remind me to offer a smile and a “How’s it going” to a stranger. Give me the wisdom to speak words of encouragement rather than words of outrage, words of healing and not division. Help me to listen to a neighbor’s opinion, rather than offer mine unasked for. Make me small.
Poppy … wishing you a very happy New Year. Let’s get small!