"Doom Scrolling" isn't Self-Loving, and Other Notes on Outrage Media
Today on The Daily Outrage, today we feature a fresh shocking lie, then an incident of extreme rudeness or maybe even human cruelty, with a little abuse of power and system collapse thrown in. We’ll close with an existentially gutting climate story. That should keep your cortisol spiked until tomorrow, when we have a special feature on the bombs your taxes pay for and the global arms race. But just so you don't feel totally incapacitated, here are some painkillers, and more news on the legalization of cannabis. Plus, a sale. On something. Something you really need.
Yesterday, I was sitting having a very peaceful hummingbird experience, when a man sat down across from me. He wanted to talk about the long arc of sociopolitical developments from FDR to Reagan, and how he's moving out of the country because it's gotten so bad in the United States, and as he's monologuing and I see the frenzy of powerlessness and fear in his eyes. Then, yesterday, a friend sent me a new and scathing Rolling Stone article painting a group of Americans as being far, far out into the conspiracy ethers (a tendency that also comes from powerlessness).
I feel people shrinking and isolating, and it's not just COVID. It's nervous system overwhelm from what we are consuming in the news!
I recently heard a story, set in a monastery. Whenever the monks found themselves scurrying around with too many tasks— because there's always a lot of work in a monastery—they simply stopped whatever they were doing. They settled totally into the present moment, and their feelings and experience within it.
When I become present to what I feel in the face of the Daily Outrage—as opposed to distracting myself or numbing out- here's what I found. First, I found frustration, and some powerlessness—a sense that systems larger than I can comprehend are at work, and doubt in my neighbors. A feeling of being small. Next, I found some anger at the imposed daily cortisol spike, blasted through the ether to poison the minds of millions. I found scorn for the incompetence of a nation that can't cooperate enough to keep hundreds of thousands of citizens from dying, while other, less wealthy nations have seen no new cases in more than a hundred days.
Then a deep sadness came. Inside of that, I found a longing for civil discourse, fairness, and justice. For a community that operates on the pure love of each other, as each other.
By naming my feelings, by speaking them out loud instead of distracting myself from them, they lost their power. No staying busy in order to bypass the feelings, no numbing out.
And no isolation, either. It is hugely important right now to be with real people we know and trust, digitally if required, and to talk with them. To witness each other in this moment. And when we are together, to not let the fearful parts of ourselves commune with those in others and amplify the negative. Let's not let the outlier behaviors highlighted by the news feeds create the container of how we see each other.
If we want a world that celebrates, reveres, and honors life—a world where care and curiosity and positive intent are our dominant way of living—we have to feel it, together, and not let it paralyze us, or lead to demonization of the Other.
So, no doom scrolling. It's not self-loving. And it doesn't correctly inform our actions. This very moment, right now, with all of its splendors and risks, is asking us to feel it so acutely that we are moved to act—and to create the world we want to see.