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I'm Fasting from the News

Starting Ash Wednesday, February 14, I committed myself to fasting from the news for the whole period of Lent. In some past years, I have given up watching the evening network news. This year I wanted to be more radical. The reason? I am a news junkie.

All my adult life I have diligently read newspapers, news magazines and never missed the news on television. During the past few decades, I enriched that mixture by catching the Morning Edition on National Public Radio, plus talk shows like Studio IA, if I am driving or working on something that can handle the distraction. Besides, I would always tune in to part of All Things Considered. I subscribe to Time and The Week magazines. I read the Grand Rapids Press online once or twice a week. And I never miss the PBS News Hour on TV, plus part of the evening news programs from NBC or CBS.

It is my habit to want to know everything (!) . Lately, I noticed that the news affects my mental state. There’s always been plenty of bad news, but it seems we are in a tsunami of bad news this year. I was feeling depressed sometimes, or just anxious about what the next day might bring and what I could do about it. Some researchers say we are living with a higher level of angst than previous decades.

So, I wondered, could I disconnect completely? Well, I have found I can get along without knowing much about what is happening in Washington, in Israel, in Russia, and even our state of Michigan. I glance at the Ludington Daily News, skim through the headlines occasionally, looking for items that might be educational, but not “the news.”

Wow, I haven’t been this free from thinking of all the world’s problems and challenges for a long time. It’s allowed me to read a book while Mary Ann watches the news on TV. And I don’t feel deprived, I feel relieved.

I have generally been an activist, going to rallies, party meetings, writing to the editor, etc. During campaign seasons, I delivered flyers, visited people in our township to get out the vote. I want to make a difference. And this year, I really wish I could make a difference. I have strong feelings about public issues. But I have other things to pour my passion into, like the historical novel I’m finishing up on the lives of my Hagemeyer grandparents from their marriage in 1900 to their 50th anniversary in 1950. I’m the only surviving cousin in my generation, and I want to tell their story to the next generations, the tough events they faced and the wonderful things they accomplished. There are two other books I’m editing, but won’t bore you with those details.

The outcome of my Lenten fast from news is that after Easter I will keep my intake of news sources reduced. I want to be less anxious for myself and for others. Fasting from food helps cleanse the system and break habits, and for me fasting from “knowing everything that’s happening” has been good for me. I have also come to realize I can only make a tiny difference in the outcomes of elections and other big events. I will vote, and perhaps write a few opinion letters.

I read recently that people who have highly specialized jobs aimed at sorting out important research issues are sometimes isolated from all outside input to allow them to focus on their task. Maybe that’s a good model for more of us, at least some of the time. Let me know what you think.


The Apostle Paul says: “Now, . . one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.” Phil 4:8 NLT


© 2024 Stanley Hagemeyer

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