Today’s story comes from Zac, a musician living in Spain.
I am not Catholic or Orthodox but I like the idea of fasting for Lent and over the years I have practiced my own version of letting go of something for 40 days. I usually search myself for what thing I have inside of me that needs reigning in or what scaly tailed little demon I need to flick off my shoulder. This year I decided it was going to be a total black-out of all news and social media and I started off in robust fashion, replacing facebook with an actual book and trading the clamor of the news for the sweet sound of music.
It was good, peaceful, healthy and then – the coronavirus happened.
Over the years I have become something of a news junkie. It’s a love/hate thing. I like to compare different outlets to see how they report the same incident. I like the subtle twist of words, the deceptive edits, the omissions, the manipulation of information, the left/right clash. I guess I like to think that I can sift through it and arrive at something approximating the truth and I guess that I do this because truth is important to me – not that I can really do much about it. But then there is something inside of me that pricks at my conscience that maybe this isn’t a very good use of time. Hence my fast.
Like I said, I started off well, but then my wife kept talking about this virus that was happening (she was my only permitted news source). Every day the story kept building and then she started to get irritated with my fasting because I didn’t know anything at all and she wanted to be able to talk about it with someone, and well, it was kind of killing me too because it was a huge story developing and I was in the dark. Then one day I received a rather provocative text message from a friend of mine in the States (I live in Spain) who, despite our being very good friends, is very different from me in our politics and I would say that this difference is something that we enjoy, although sometimes we wind up in absurd debates that can leave an air of unease between us that we then have to soothe with a cold beer or some other shared love.
His text message resulted in the end of my fast and I went on an epic news consumption binge the resulted in a series of emails between he and I that eventually brought us into harmonious alliance… Haha – that’s a joke. It was verbal jousting, hours of reading, searching the internet and wasting a stupid amount of time – all to end up with us agreeing that it was a waste of time. We agreed to disagree – very civilized of us. We did however leave off agreeing that John Prine was a brilliant song writer and a beautiful soul (and that’s the truth -RIP).
After this I should have wisely returned to my Lenten journey but alas here I am today still consuming the news and looking at Facebook. The coronavirus is one of the biggest stories of our time and it has become a morass of conflicting information, conspiracy theories, propaganda from all directions, and unfortunately has become overtly politicized. I’m up to my knees in the muck of it all.
Looking back to my exchange/debate with my friend I ponder the question of how can two people of reasonable intelligence look at the same situation and arrive at completely different interpretations. Really, how is this possible? What does this say about our minds? And with so much varying information, can we really know the truth of anything? The lesson I take away from my curtailed Lenten fast and from all the subsequent hours of media consumption is that the knowledge in my head is limited in nature and constantly shifting and re-organizing and that I should treat this knowledge lightly and keep the lines soft and open. But even more importantly I need to remember the knowledge I have in my heart that is simpler and more solid. For example my friend, whom I so disagree with, is really genuinely a beautiful person and our friendship is something real, immediate and true. And this truth is truer than the loosely cobbled together “truths” I have rattling around in my brain. In these days and in the days to come of this crisis I must honor and protect the truths in my heart because ultimately they consist of the only kind of knowledge we can truly know.