Up Front and Personal

How Much News Can One Person Take?

by Father Eugene Hemrick

At 6 a.m., I rise and turn on my music station that is interrupted every 30 minutes by the news.
After Mass, I read the newspaper that awaits me on the kitchen table.  The first thing to appear on my computer at work is MSN news.
Before dinner, I sit and watch a BBC news show, the national news and the “PBS NewsHour.”
As a columnist, it is my business to keep abreast of the news. However, I recently wondered what this is doing to my psyche, and for that matter, the psyche of everyone who follows the news.
Almost all of today’s news is sensational and most of it is about death, scandals, economic fears, ecological anxieties and crises around the world. More often than not, we are cast into a world of gloom and doom.  Seldom are we inspired, and never is the news free of catastrophes, devastation and killings.  What is the effect on our peace of mind in this merry-go-round existence?
One of the meanings of silence is stillness and being focused.  Silence fosters contemplation needed to be in touch with our inner self.  There’s a saying: “Concentration is the secret of strength.”
But how is this possible when the news rushes our minds from one event to another in lightning speed, not allowing us to be still long enough to concentrate?  Could one reason for our feeling repeatedly tired be the bombardment of too much news?  Is it one of the culprits sapping our strength?
It is true that as humans, we are quick to adapt to our modern electronic age and often think nothing of its consequences on our psyche.  But it is equally true that the age of instant news is heightening our anxiety level and creating the brave new world of English novelist Aldous Huxley in which chemical dependence is a way of surviving the onslaught of hyper-stimulation.
The Book of Genesis sends us a wise message, pointing out how the serpent tempts Eve by telling her she will have more knowledge and be like God if she eats the forbidden fruit.  As wonderful as is knowledge and as awesome as is the wisdom, knowledge has a dark side: Too much, too soon, too undisciplined can destroy hopes of living in peacefulness.
I think of another saying: “Knowledge maketh a bloody entrance.”   It is wise to live these days to make sure daily news does not bloody us.[hr] Father Hemrick is a priest of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.  He works in Washington with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and writes a weekly column for Catholic News Service.