“Turn it off! Just turn it off!” my friend Mattie admonished me. My blood pressure was rising as I ranted and raved about what I’d heard on TV. She reached over, grabbed the remote from my hand, and turned the set off. It took several minutes before I felt myself relaxing, giving in to the silence, my emotions returning to normal.
What was I ranting about? With so much happening on the international, national, and local levels of society – political, financial, and religious manipulation; wars, right and left wing rhetoric, health care debates, high unemployment, it’s enough to have one shouting at their radio, TV, computer, or worst, carrying guns openly and threatening those we disagree with.
Mattie told me of two people she knew – Vernon and Lincoln. Both represent two sides of the political spectrum, liberal and conservative. They are swayed by pundits, and even though they have never been included in a survey, they feel that issues are one way or the other, repeating talking points they’ve heard, getting angry with each other over things they’ve read about such as abortion, gun control, gay rights, the country’s budget deficits when they can’t balance their own checkbook. They are always looking outward and seldom inward. What results is they are not open, not in touch with their feelings and their own reasoning powers. Though they were childhood friends, they no longer speak to each other except to argue.
“Find your own way by looking closer to home,” she advised me. “It’s okay to be aware of what goes on in society; it’s important to take a stand, vote, and participate in our civic duty; however, you must discover the facts for yourself rather than repeat what others say. You mustn’t let outside forces rule your emotions. Pay attention to things that directly affect you and things you can control.”
I’ve come to realize that family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers are more important than what someone says on TV. When I look around I see people helping people, being kind to one another, relating to each other as one human being to another regardless of a label placed on them. If we allow others to manipulate our emotional lives, to define reality for us, we are blocked or hindered from real relationships with others. If we judge people by assigning labels to them and treating them according to those labels, we diminish ourselves. The best advice Mattie gave me was to turn off, tune in and open up to life.
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