The Real World

Despite my frequent admonition to myself to steer clear of the “news” every morning, I find myself indulging that bad habit almost every day. Today, as I began scanning the headlines, I felt my blood pressure rise, my jaws tighten, and my gut churn. That depressing daily routine hit me especially hard this morning. Instead of accepting the emotional punches as usual, though, I closed the tabs for CNN, AP, NPR, and the rest. I opened Google and typed in “I just want some good news.” Among the numerous hits: For a while, at least, the hideousness of life on planet Earth morphed into something hopeful, positive, energizing…an anecdote to the poison most media outlets feed me—with my willing consent—almost every day. In a report entitled “This city turns sewage into drinking water in 24 hours. The concept is catching on,” I learned about the remarkable experience of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Since the late 1960s, the city has employed direct potable reuse (DPR), a process by which completely safe drinking water is produced directly from sewage. Another article describes the “Closed for Maintenance” program of the Faroe Islands, when the islands are closed to “normal” tourism, allowing only those willing to be involved in “repairing paths, building cairns, making signs, gates and ladders and creating easier and safer ways to navigate between towns and villages.” The program is so popular that only 3 percent of those who apply to participate are accepted. Other places around the globe have begun to implement similar programs, using tourism itself to help rebuild and maintain tourist attractions.  In another report, dated September 7, I learned that “2,000 captive southern white rhinos are to be released into the wild after conservationists snapped up the world’s largest private rhino farm.” These represent just a tiny sample of the interesting, uplifting, positive news stories I found this morning—but only after intentionally seeking them out. Obviously, they do not negate the ugly and depressing news that dominates the media most of us consume regularly, but they gave me a little respite from that emotionally damaging informational landscape. For a while, at least.


I spent something like a combined four hours yesterday and the day before, watching and listening to an AARP safe driving program aimed at doddering geezers…or, to put a more positive spin on it, older drivers. My participation in the online program came about because, when I received the receipt for my monthly auto insurance premium, I noticed it has increased rather significantly, thanks at least in part to the expiration of the discount I earned from participating in a similar online program a few years ago. Though most—maybe all—of the program was identical to the one in which I participated before, it included some tidbits that were either new or that I had forgotten. No doubt about it, the four hours was generally boring in the extreme and delivered at a pace designed for people very slow on the uptake of information. Despite that, though, it offered several bits of information and advice that I think will have a positive impact on the way I drive and/or react to situations when I am behind the wheel. Though I wish it had been delivered in a quarter of the time and I could have done without the sometimes patronizing tone of delivery, I think it was worth the $20.21 I spent on it. I will save far more than that on my insurance premiums…I think.


I recently overheard someone talk about participating in online guided meditation. My interest in meditation, right now this morning, revolves around my desire to loosen the extreme tightness and pain in my neck and shoulders. A firm but gentle massage might accomplish the same thing. Maybe a heating pad would do the trick. Or a hot shower, water beating down on me for several minutes. Or morphine. Last night, we watched Hacksaw Ridge; morphine provided instant relief to severely injured soldiers whose bodies had been badly mangled by bullets or grenades or bayonets. The film was gritty and bloody in the extreme, but quite well done. It was based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who saved something like 75 soldiers’ lives on the battlefield through his remarkable bravery and unwavering dedication as a medic.


Okay. I am ready to return to the real world. Perhaps.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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