Monday, May 21, 2007

Reality Check

Envirowoman blogged about an article describing the huge amounts of plastic debris in the Pacific that is twice the size of Texas that is well worth the read, sad though it may be.
While the topic is not a happy one, being aware of the state of the world makes it much easier to make choices that ultimately make us happier as we choose things based on their positive affect on ourselves, others, and the environment. I don’t really like reading depressing news, and often I skip right over all those headlines about troops dying in Iraq and clashes in Lebanon not because I don’t care or I want to be uninformed but because reading about Elizabeth Taylor’s Van Gogh – though that too is controversial – is much more neutral and easier to deal with. Also, I like to read things related to animals – someone’s Berenese Mountain dog had a litter of 13 pups or the stories about the little polar bear in the zoo in Germany – these are heartwarming and always have cute pictures.

Pictures of men running with guns and bloodied bodies are not nice. Nor are pictures of turtles choked by plastic ties cinching their middles. But even though these things do not make me happy I shouldn’t only read about celebrity gossip, developments in science and other things that do not cause me emotional distress or cognitive dissonance because then I lose sight of how fortunate I am. I am not suggesting that we only read bad or troubling news in order to give us a foundation of comparison so that we know how great our own lives our, but this is one reason to do it. And if I said otherwise, I would be lying. But also, knowing what is going on allows us to again, make choices that we can feel good about. Feeling as though I am in control or part of something that is a force of good or change is a component of happiness. Granted, I haven’t been doing much in the way of keeping up on US politics since I moved away three years ago but I have become more aware of systems elsewhere and have been attempting to keep an eye on things (if only politicians were fuzzy animals with innocent eyes, I would pay so much more attention to them!) in an attempt to make better, more informed choices the next time I vote absentee.

Balancing what to read in the news is a hard thing for me though. I am not an unintelligent person but it’s hard for me to follow a lot of what is going on around the world. Which is to say, I am not particularly well informed about past events around the world. I took a number of history courses in high school – world history until the mid-1800s and US history until the mid 1900’s but I managed not to take any history courses at university given my majors and quite frankly I lack a lot of the knowledge base to keep up on things. But that is a lame excuse for not trying and I am trying to be more aware of things. But sadly, the plight of those two folks building their dream home (their third home!) on an island in Florida published on The New York Times online gets more of my attention. As do blogs on design, crafting, personal finance and happiness. But I do try to give myself a reality check because my own happiness ultimately, is in some small way tied to everyone else’s and in a huge way, contingent upon the well being of the planet.

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