In December, I took home communion to many members of the church who live in senior care facilities or who are homebound. I noticed several people who seem to sit all day with the companionship of cable news. I wondered what that constant bombardment of opinion and negativity (not to mention commercials) does to their minds, their spirits. If I’d visited a parishioner whose armchair was flanked by a large bag of potato chips and a twelve-pack of beer, I might have said to him, “Do you really think that’s good for you?” But when the junk intake is of a media variety, I keep my mouth shut…
One of my colleagues, who is usually quite upbeat, sighed to us in our Community of Practice group on Thursday, “It’s going to be a long year…every day there’s something new that seems worse than the day before. I can’t even get my head around how to react, much less lead.”
And just this morning, I noticed in my newsfeed two clergywomen describing how depressed they feel, overwhelmed by the news, aware of how difficult it is to know how to talk about those feelings, and with whom, given the intense polarization in most of our communities.
Regardless of one’s political leanings, this election year is going to be stressful.
I haven’t been on too many strict diets in my life; I was raised in a “moderation in all things” home. But I have put myself on a media diet, and I restrict the amount of time I engage in conversation about politics. I was once a news junkie, and election years were the most fun. For me, getting up in the morning to hear who won a primary was like following a favorite sports team. No more.
I began observing how I felt after a large intake of political talk. I began to monitor my mental/emotional/spiritual state, just like I monitor how food and drink intake affects my physical state. And I decided to cut back. I want to be informed. You bet I vote. But following barbs on Twitter? No thanks.
It’s not just saying “no” to political rancor, it’s also saying “yes” to other words and images…reading and watching and listening to that which makes me feel good about being a human being, connected to other people, inspired and motivated to do what I can to make a positive impact.
I love well-made films; I appreciate cinematography, and nothing is more fun than a movie that causes me to laugh really hard. I’m not a movie snob. But these days I intentionally look for those films that help inoculate me against bitterness and despair. I didn’t see all the films I wanted to but here are five of the 2019 movies I saw which were winners for me:
“Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
“The Two Popes”
“The Two Popes” veers the furthest away from fact, but I was moved by Pope Francis’ ability to treat Pope Benedict with civility and kindness even while articulating his quite alternative priorities…and I’ve been inspired again by seeing the news this week of the pope converting a former palace into a homeless shelter. He’s not perfect, of course — but if that is our standard, we won’t find any role models at all. I, for one, need them. I need examples of people who value justice and compassion and will pursue them with enthusiasm.