It was 2008.
Lehman Brothers shut down. Washington Mutual was given to Chase by the Federal Reserve. Lines of credit for small businesses were shut down and called due. Bankruptcy this. Market crash that. Fraud everything.
I watched the 24 hour news cycle day and night.
Fear. Pain. Panic.
It was the worst recession since the 1990s, they said. It was worse than they expected, they said. It was the worst recession since 1929, they said. And we all know what happened then.
Fear. Pain. Panic.
It was Bernie Madoff’s fault. It was Mortgage Brokers’ fault. It was the banks’ fault. It was Alan Greenspan’s fault. It was the Federal Reserve’s fault. It was the Hedge Funds’ fault.
No, it was your neighbor’s fault. And everyone else was the victim.
Fear. Pain. Panic.
I didn’t sleep well for months… maybe longer. FOX, CNN, and MSNBC were chicken little. They said the sky was falling.
So, I turned off the news. I focused on relationships. I set new goals. I recalibrated my life. I found my purpose, again.
And the sky didn’t fall.
Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, so I’ll pass on that chocolate this Lent.
Growing up Catholic, every year for Lent, I would give up some hedonistic pleasure– mostly candy, chocolate, or soda. It was Winston Churchill that said, “Never trust a teenager without vices,” right?
Also got Lent, my family would give up something altogether– mostly television. It sounded archaic to my friends, especially since we never even had cable, but we’d shut off the television and spend time doing everything outside of the reach of technology (there were no iPads or cell phones then, either).
I always remember Lent fondly because merely shutting off the television tuned me into my life more. We played board games, card games, basketball, and everything in between. I’d read recreationally- which I didn’t do much then.
No matter what we chose to do, it was always more fulfilling than watching television. Every year, although I’d miss Seinfeld & Friends, we’d celebrate Easter feeling a little bit closer to family and a little more connected to ourselves after our television fast.
If it bleeds, it leads.
This is an oft-mentioned philosophy of news producers and media magnates. Even Oprah in her rise gave the Ku Klux Klan show time to debate racial issues. I’m not talking about fake news; I’m talking about the news.
Today, with individuals incessantly consuming content on mobile, desktop, tablet, TV, and everything in between, with a half-dozen channels dedicated to 24/hour news, it’s no wonder that our society is becoming more fearful.
Fear strums at the adrenal medulla and releases adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing the fight or flight response. It interrupts our minds from higher level tasks. It activates our primal instinct to react upon attack.
Never was Yoda so accurate as when he said,
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
One of my parents first dates was to watch Star Wars: A New Hope, so I practically memorized Episode IV, V, and VI. Then George Lucas re-imagined and re-released them when I was in high school and I, II, and III came out. Episode VII and VIII just came out.
When my brother, sister, and I would play “pretend” in the backyard as kids, I was Luke, my brother was Han Solo, and my sister was Princess Leia. Don’t be weird about that.
I always wanted to be a Jedi Knight. I learned the sword in Kung Fu, so I could handle a light saber better given the chance, even though Rafael was my favorite Ninja Turtle (he used sighs).
Now I know I can’t be a Jedi. The closest I can get is to just live the Jedi code,
“Emotion, yet peace. Ignorance, yet knowledge. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony.”
But that seems too hard, so I just turn off the news, focus on relationships, set new goals, and re-calibrate my life.
It makes me a little more like a Jedi everyday.