By Jack Canfora
In my experience, there is only one true way to tackle a diet: failingly. This perhaps explains why I am becoming the answer to the seldom asked philosophical question, “What would Orson Welles have looked like if he weren’t a genius?”
Having said that, I’m happy to report that my latest diet has been largely successful: a steep reduction in my news consumption. For most of my life, I’ve been an avid follower of politics and current events. I not only found it interesting (for the most part – financial news will forever sound to me like when the adults spoke in those televised Peanuts specials), but if I can climb on my high horse for moment without hurting it or myself too badly, I believe it’s a basic obligation of a citizen of a democracy to stay informed. Please avert your eyes as I try to dismount: it won’t be pretty.
There. Only fell twice, and they assure me the horse, with some patience and therapy, will walk again. Ever since the 2000 Election, when I was but a young boy (emotionally), I feel that duty has grown even more urgent. And let’s just say that the last four years or so have not been easy on my nervous system. In fact, as the – and forgive my coarseness here – shenanigans of the past administration continued to help drive the world into a bad rewrite of an abandoned Orwell novel, I found myself even more consumed with the events of the day, which seemed to accrue with a speed Chuck Yeager would have found dizzying. I realized it made me edgier (not in the “Oh my god, he’s so cool and daring” way, more the, “What the hell is your problem” way) and an even harder person to be around than normal (a fairly high bar). For much of the summer, I tried to curtail my news intake, knowing that come the fall, I would need to focus on what I thought, in my understated way, was the most consequential moment in American history during my lifetime. And although I felt profound relief in November, by the day after January 6th (I think that was the 7th, but it’s hard to recollect exactly), my anxiety had reached its peak, or nadir, depending on how you view it and/or are comfortable using the word “nadir.”
By then, thank Buddha, my work as the Artistic Director of my online theater company kicked into high gear, and over the next two months, that work consumed most of my waking hours. And though that had inherent stresses of its own, they were at least stressors that I had a large part in shaping and affecting. I allowed – or, more aptly, had little choice – but to stop riding the carnival of continuous chaos that is cable news (I apologize for that flagrant alteration. I will do everything in my power not to repeat that. That was hard on both of us). And while I still feel I have to at least have a sense of which way the wind is blowing, I don’t feel the need, to borrow from Bob Dylan, to constantly check in with my weatherman.
If you’ve felt a similar stress, I cannot recommend a News Diet highly enough. Please don’t misunderstand my, I’m not suggesting you starve yourself of news, but try to limit your intake to bite-sized portions. I’d also urge you to avoid the empty calories of nightly opinion shows, or at least cut back (I can’t stay mad at you, Anderson Cooper, with your eyes I can get lost in for days). Here’s to better news in the days ahead, and less of it.
Follow me, please, on Twitter and Instagram @jackcanfora
Check out my personal blog: http://www.thewritingonthepaddedwall.com
And, one last thing, and then I swear I’ll leave you alone, please check out my online theater, New Normal Rep: http://www.newnormalrep.org