I Want to Know

Yesterday, my good friend Kirakira Chan wrote a beautiful post on her blog, Words Sitting Near the Sky (http://wordssittingnearthesky.blogspot.com), entitled I Don’t Want to Know. The post was about a choice Kira has made, not to read newspapers or watch television news, actively choosing not to expose herself to news and current events.
Kira’s post was very articulate and well written, and made a strong case for blocking out the (generally negative) news in order to preserve serenity and sensitivity. It was especially interesting to me, because my sister has also expressed similar sentiments, and chooses not to read the newspaper or watch television news if she can avoid it.
This really made me think. Here are two intelligent women, who I love, admire and respect, taking a thoughtful and well intentioned position on something that is completely opposite to the way I feel, and almost have a visceral reaction to. It’s not that I want or need to change how they believe or behave; unless someone’s behavior hurts themselves or another, I am firmly of the live and let live credo. So why did this bother me so much?
After hours of soul searching, I realized that like so many things that shape who I am, this came directly back to one person, my mother. My mom, two years departed and much loved and missed, embraced the “Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about it tomorrow, put my head in the sand and hope tomorrow never comes” attitude to life. She avoided hard conversations, looming financial crisis, health problems and advanced planning for her elder years, and in fact, for her eventual after life decisions.
This inability to look at hard truths, and make decisions for herself caused her children a lot of pain and grief. We were left making decisions for her that made her unhappy but were the best actions we could take. We would have been thrilled to have her take command or control of her own care and destiny, but even when she still had the ability to do so, she resisted.
I loved my mom very much, but this attitude infuriated me and frustrated me, made me feel guilty at times for making her unhappy, and angry again with her for putting her children in that position. Because of that, I look unflinchingly at worst case scenarios. I have had my own share of bad luck, bad health and bad times, but my way of controlling those situations is to look at the very worst thing that can happen, figure out how I can deal with it, and then work my way backwards. The very worst thing seldom, if ever, happens, so by taking this approach, I feel more equipped to handle what comes my way.
Kira wrote in her essay about being a sensitive person and her concern that if she immersed herself in the catastrophes of events, global or local, she would be overwhelmed by sorrow. I know this to be true of her; she has a pure soul that radiates compassion. But I wondered if my willingness to be aware of the terrible tragedies going on in our world, to actively seek out this news, without actively doing anything to participate in improving things, did this make me a less compassionate person? Is there something insensitive in my ability to see people’s suffering, feel sorrow about it, but not internalize it to the point that it damages me in some way?
If I can’t help, or fix things, do I need to know about them? There is no wrong or right answer here. What I realized is that my “need to know” is my form of self-protection, just as Kira’s choice is hers. For now, I have no plans to change my behavior; I will continue to follow the news of the wars, the plane crashes, the immigration debates. I completely respect and support the different choice made by others on this, but for me, I DO want to know.
The end, for now

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