P. Brown, author & friend of Getting Better Foundation
It is only natural that we care mostly about ourselves. Our immediate family. Our friends. Maybe our neighbors. And just maybe the community we live in.
That’s the way most of us live our lives. And for good reason. For the most part we can’t afford the time and energy it takes to be engaged with much outside the world we live in that’s closest to home.
That’s the way we feel about the world.
But when we think about the world, our understanding of it changes to include more of it. More people. More opportunities. More ideas. More possibilities.
But what can drive us back into our more narrow, shallow selves is the toxicity of the news that is offered up not only by the day but by the hour.
And it’s not necessarily honoring that elusive ideal of consistently telling the truth.
But a constant diet of it, one that necessarily excludes some fundamental human truths of trust, compassion, empathy and integrity gets lost in the daily shuffle of news, which while still called the news is now more a form of entertainment than a staple we can successfully shape our world around.
The horror show is no longer limited to the silver screen. It is playing daily everywhere on every device at hand, be it network television, cable television, radio, podcast or live-streaming sites.
It is unavoidable. And seductive. Because it caters to our basest instincts. Our limbic selves. Our animal nature which revolves around survival. And that instinct is fear.
But fear is our ultimately our enemy. Because it is the opposition party to trust and compassion and integrity. It brings out our worst. And fear, most importantly, is the enemy of truth.
Every despot in history has used fear as a weapon against the truth. Against the better nature of our selves. Against what we can be.
Ultimately, it is weaponized against our future.
Fear speaks to our endocrine system. Truth speaks to the chambers of our heart.
Truth is naturally invitational. Fear is, by its nature, confrontational.
The news we have is at a higher volume and a higher frequency than it has ever been before. At times it appears like a shouting match between aggrieved parties, each with an oversized pickax to grind and the megaphone to make a point, hammering it home with a relentlessness that would make a jackhammer jealous.
Unfortunately, our default setting is now the negative.
And while the nature of the beast is that news is typically skewed toward the sensational and the negative, the truth of the matter is that together, we as a people, individually and globally are evolving into a more characteristically kind, caring and generous species.
But in this crowded, noisy marketplace of ideas, it is increasingly difficult to be heard above the din of the crowd calling for more blood, more gore, more carnage, only to be fed a constant diet of the same.
We are deliberately exposed to bad news wherever we look. We are only inadvertently exposed to good news. There is a pattern to this that is not in our favor.
For the Romans it was bread and circuses. For us it is the 24-hour news cycle and the latest small-town tragedy, be it the crashed school bus or the opioid death of a favorite high school teacher.
Where can we find succor in such a world? Where can we find the calm, peaceful center where we can reflect instead of react. Where can we go in our hearts and minds without burning out our adrenal glands on the latest gossip or hand-wringing about the imminent end of the world?
The answer may be within ourselves. Perhaps it is time to take a reasoned, deliberate, look at what the numbers tell us.
And we have to warn you: As shocking as this may seem, the news is good.
Almost all good.
And it’s consistently borne out by evidence-based science.
But at the core of this dilemma facing all of us is one we call the perception gap.
And it is a costly enterprise in terms of what it takes away from us, which is essentially our humanity, if humanity can be defined by our innate optimism.
And that’s because pessimism, like optimism, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Pessimism, simply put, robs us of our humanity.
And we are, even against our own best interests, drawn to bad news.
So, obviously, there is much work to be done. And that work can begin with our recognition of the fact that humankind is capable of incalculable harm, both against itself and against nature itself.
But with that being said, it is imperative that we recognize that on balance, humanity is built on an unquenchable desire to improve upon what we have.
That desire, in turn, is fueled by optimism, charity, kindness and generosity.
And the incontrovertible evidence is that that is exactly what we have been doing with and to ourselves for the past 1,000 years.
Now the question before us is what will the next 1,000 years hold? Will we subvert our promise and give in to a pessimistic, inward looking contagion that infects our thinking and belief in ourselves and our kind, or will be step back from that temptation and embrace a future that is in keeping with our true nature and our better angels?