For more than three decades I've been at a loss to understand how people could have no interest in what's happening in the world around them. How can you not consume some form of news? Doesn't it drive you crazy to be unaware of what's going on? What if you miss something important? How can you tune out politics and elections so completely? Hell, by the time I was in kindergarten I felt weird if the paperboy was late and I didn't see the front of the Chicago Tribune before school.
Sunday I woke up, opened my laptop, and went to CNN. Screaming banner headlines about another attack on police officers resulting in at least three deaths. I blinked a half-dozen times to make sure the morning fog had cleared. I half-read the main story about it, then paused. I opened another tab for Cap Friendly. Ooh, the Stars just signed Jamie Benn to a huge extension. Wow. $76 million. Well, that's the going rate for a guy who finishes in the top five or ten in goals every year. Dallas is gonna be good, real good, if they can find some more help on D. Close all tabs. Close the computer. I left the house and didn't take my phone with me.
I can't claim to have fully informed myself on every news story of significance throughout my life, but that was the first time I can recall just…not being able to do it. With the unbroken string of horrible, crazy shit that has cast a pall over the world in the last few months, and without the events in Dallas, in St. Paul, and (the first) Baton Rouge being fully digested and comprehended, there was no part of me able to even take in another story along the same lines. Throw in the major European/Asian terrorist attack of the week and I didn't just ignore the news on Sunday. I actively avoided it. For one of the only times in my life, something important was happening and I had absolutely no desire to know anything about it. I still managed to feel guilty, but I can imagine that with enough practice that feeling would fade. Eventually.
It was only one day, one story, one experience. It helped me to understand, for example, why people retreat into Pokemon Go and Netflix binges and baseball season and reality TV and Tumblr and anything else you can do to take your mind off of the real world these days. Paying attention to what's happening around us arguably is more important right now than at any point in my lifetime, and that makes it feel all the more…heavy. Taxing. It feels like trying to conduct the activities of a normal life, and to interact with other human beings in a normal manner, while dragging around a sack of bricks. It makes perfect sense to want to put it down, even if only for a while.
What's going on here in the United States and around the world bothers me. I have to admit, it bothers me a lot. It's bothering me more than I realized. It hangs over me like a cloud. Sunday morning in Baton Rouge was my limit, apparently. I want to be engaged, but 2016 is making it difficult to remain engaged indefinitely. I am (we are?) used to terrible things happening intermittently. So we train ourselves to handle short sprints. This year is like a marathon; no breaks, just mile after mile of slogging. Obviously I don't have the stamina for it, especially knowing how many miles we still have to go.