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Donna N. Murphy
Newsoholism - Sclerosis of the Spirit - Henry David Thoreau


Bill wakes up to a morning television news program, then reads the paper at breakfast. He listens to news on the radio as he drives into work.
 
When he comes home from work at night, he browses through a news magazine, then turns on the television again to catch the latest local, national and international news.
 
Bill is a newsoholic, and CNN thrives because of addicts like him.
 
Now that our planet is “wired” via transoceanic cables under water, broadcast towers on land, and satellites in the sky, we are informed almost instantly of plane crashes, wars, floods, and famines half a world away.
 
It’s enough to make you terminally depressed.
 
It also serves to distract a person from more important, personal activities, such as inward reflection, self-criticism, and spiritual growth. If you’re busy worrying about someone else’s affairs, you have less time to put your own in order.
 
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) took two years off from daily life among his fellow men and lived in a cottage he built in the woods near a pond.
 
By living simply and turning inward, he learned more about himself and the world around him than if he’d ready every newspaper in the Harvard College library.
 
This is what Thoreau had to say about the news in his memoirs of the experience, Walden:
 
“I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Rairoad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the Winter—we never need read of another. One is enough.
 
“If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip.
 
“There was such a rush, as I heard, the other day at one of the offices to learn the foreign news by the last arrival, that several large squares of plate glass belonging to the establishment were broken by the pressure—news which I seriously think a ready wit might write a twelvemonth or twelve years beforehand with sufficient accuracy.
 
“As for Spain, for instance, if you know how to throw in Don Carlos and the Infanta, and Don Pedro and Seville and Granada, from time to time in the right proportions—they may have changed the names a little since I saw the papers—and serve up a bullfight when other entertainments fail, it will be true to the letter, and give us good an idea of the exact state or ruin of things in Spain as the most succinct and lucid reports under this head in the newspapers; and as for England, almost the last significant scrap of news from that quarter was the revolution of 1649, and if you have learned the history of her crops for an average year, you never need attend to that thing again, unless your speculations are of a merely pecuniary character.
 
“If one may judge who rarely looks into the newspapers, nothing new does ever happen in foreign parts, a French revolution not excepted.
 
“What news! How much more important to know what that is which was never old! Kieou-he-yu (great dignitary of the state of Wei) sent a man to Khoung-tseu to know his news. Khoung-tseu caused the messenger to be seated near him, and questioned him in these terms: ‘What is you master doing?’
 
“The messenger answered with respect: ‘My master desires to diminish the number of his faults, but he cannot come to the end of them.’
 
“The messenger being gone, the philosopher remarked: ‘What a worth messenger! What a worthy messenger!”

Donna Murphy, "Newsoholism: Sclerosis of the spirit," Irondequoit Press, June 24, 1993.




Heaven on Earth
Darwin, Animals and Humans - Mark Twain
Fear, The Inhibitor of Mankind - Frederick Douglass
Striving to Improve Oneself - Benjamin Franklin
The Ancient Mariner and the Albatross - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Kindred Spirits - Michel de Montaigne
Bless the Beasts and the Children - Anne Sullivan
Newsoholism - Sclerosis of the Spirit - Henry David Thoreau
Freedom of Choice - John Milton
Out of My Life and Thought - Albert Schweitzer
The Beauty of Language - William Shakespeare
Confession is Good for the Soul - Plato
Copyright 2017 by Donna N. Murphy