India Today - - LEISURE -

One won­ders whether the tor­rent of sto­ries could ever mo­men­tar­ily be made to dry up; whether—by an ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fort of co­or­di­na­tion—mankind might agree to be­have so cau­tiously that, for a day there would end up sim­ply be­ing no news. Mur­der­ers the world over might de­lay their in­ten­tions, fool­hardy swim­mers would re­main ashore, adul­ter­ous politi­cians would fix their at­ten­tions on the lawn. But the over­seers of the news need never fear such scarcity. Sta­tis­tics will as­sure them that by the end of any twenty-four-hour pe­riod, 3,000 people will un­wit­tingly have lost their lives on the world’s roads, forty-five people will have been mur­dered across the United States and 400 fires will have bro­ken out in homes across south­ern Europe—quite aside from any new and un­fore­seen in­no­va­tions in the fields of maim­ing, ter­ror­is­ing, steal­ing and ex­plod­ing.

*** It is never easy to be in­tro­spec­tive. There are count­less dif­fi­cult truths lurk­ing within us that in­ves­ti­ga­tion threat­ens to dis­lodge. It is when we are in­cu­bat­ing par­tic­u­larly awk­ward ideas that we tend to feel most des­per­ate to avoid look­ing in­side. And that is when the news grabs us.

We should be aware of how jeal­ous an ad­ver­sary of in­ner ex­am­i­na­tion it is—and how much fur­ther it wishes to go in this di­rec­tion. Its pur­vey­ors want to put screens on our seat-backs, re­ceivers in our watches and phones in our minds, so as to en­sure that we will be al­ways con­nected, al­ways aware of what is hap­pen­ing; never alone.

*** We need re­lief from the news-helled im­pres­sion that we are liv­ing in an age of un­par­al­leled im­por­tance, with our wars, our debts, our ri­ots, our miss­ing chil­dren, our af­ter-pre­miere par­ties, our IPOs and our rogue mis­siles. We need, on oc­ca­sion, to be able to rise up into space in our imag­i­na­tion, many kilo­me­tres above the man­tle of the earth, to a place where that par­tic­u­lar con­fer­ence and this par­tic­u­lar epi­demic, that new phone and this shock­ing wild­fire, will lose a lit­tle of their power to af­fect us—and where even the most in­tractable prob­lems will seem to dis­solve against the aeons of time to which the view of other gal­ax­ies at­tests.

*** We should at times forgo our own news in or­der to pick up on the far stranger, more won­drous head­lines of those less elo­quent species that sur­round us: kestrels and snow geese, spi­der bee­tles and black-faced leaf­hop­pers, lemurs and small chil­dren—all crea­tures use­fully un­in­ter­ested in our own melo­dra­mas; coun­ter­weights to our anx­i­eties and self-ab­sorp­tion.

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