The Tyranny of Holding the Weight of the World

World news has been troubling lately. Headlines seemingly compete against one another to announce ever more shocking news. Whether it’s the events unfolding in Afghanistan, the ins and outs of the next COVID variant, strained race relations, or just your garden variety neighborhood crime wave, the events around us–and around the world–seem heavy.

Day after long day, we ingest it all. We hear about it from our friends, our neighbors, and our coworkers. Night after ever-loving night on the primetime shows, we watch our favorite news “anchors” and “journalists” (and I use those terms lightly) tell us the world is falling apart while (surprise!) their viewership is going up.

And even worse, it is always present on our phones. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram–each in their own sadistic algorithm-loving way–give us a veritable cornucopia of awfulness 24/7. And worse–it’s bad news catered to our own personal addictions! Intermingled with the occasional sprinkle of happy news fall showers of anger, chaos, depression, frustration, and hopelessness. 

Click, scroll, click, swipe, scroll. 

All this news makes us feel terrible, and it should. What well-adjusted human could read about the cruelty in Afghanistan and not recoil in anger or frustration? But to our fragile psyches, the fact that we can’t do anything about any of it makes us feel even worse. Even if we could do something for one atrocity, we certainly couldn’t hope to tackle them all. So each one piles up in succession, slowly and surely pulling us down into a state of despair.

But the effect of it all is actually worse than that. 

In concerning ourselves so readily with the great wide world that we can do nothing about, our energy, our focus, and our time is sucked away from the people around us that we do have influence over.. 

Tragically, as we frantically tweet about the next development in Afghanistan that we care so much about, our middle schooler sees us on our phone, figures we are busy, and walks off to tell someone else about his problem. 

The world has always been a terrible place, depending on your perspective. In any century, in any culture, barbarisms abound. We just haven’t know about so many of them all at once, and so incessantly.

We only have so much energy and time to give. The tyranny of focusing so much on the heaviness of events thousands of miles away is that we are unable to place our feet firmly where we are at. In the present. With our families, friends, and community members who need us. 

The point is not that the events of the nation or the world are unimportant, but rather, that the potential impact we can have on our immediate surroundings far outweighs the hand-wringing and political posturing of the great wide world. The point is not that we shouldn’t care about the world and our impact on it–it’s that those worldwide cares tend to paralyze us to a point of inaction in our families and communities. Let’s not fall victim to the tyranny of thinking our awareness globally is more important than our presence locally. None of us can bear the weight of the world, but each of us can bear the weight of one person tomorrow. Let’s focus on that one, and in doing so, change our corner of the world. 

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