To Know Or Not To Know

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but all of a sudden Future Hub was mentioning current events and my mind was just coming up blank. He was incredulous that I wasn't aware of some parliamentary scandal or another. "You mean, you haven't been following it at ALL?" he said, probably one normal Tuesday evening.

Thing is, one day I just got tired of reading the free newspapers in London. In the morning there's Metro and after work The Evening Standard. Everyone seems to read them and they litter the train seats and the tube seats and the flat bit in the middle of the escalators. There's a lot of highly entertaining stuff in them – restaurant reviews, celebrity gossip and of course news. The regular serious stuff like budget cuts and politics and business news but also pretty much every horrible thing that happens in Britain and the world. Children being tortured and abused, accidental holiday deaths and women cyclists in London being run over by lorries (trucks). The women always seem to be exactly my age. And of course whoever she was, she definitely had a promising career and there's always a pretty picture of her smiling back at you.

A week ago the header read: Mother and Son Killed in Bathtub. Apparently they were electrocuted when an heater fell into the tub. I didn't read the story, just peered over at it across from the tube aisle (which also toughened my resolve to write this particular blog soon).

I am aware that horrible things happen in this world. Everyday, all day long. But does it do me any good to read about them morning and evening, day in and day out? Perhaps it would be useful to know not to keep electrical appliances close to the bathtub, however, my Mother has hammered that lesson into my head for as long as I have been alive. And in Britain they don't even have electrical sockets in bathrooms, such is the fear quotient about mixing electricity and water (which begs asking how this freak accident actually happened – and I don't know, not having read the story).

I'm not suggesting totally cutting oneself off from the news flow entirely. For work I need to know what's happening in financial markets, so I read the free business newspaper (City A.M.) every morning and also get to the Financial Times later in the day as well. I also digest all sorts of trade journals about my particular industry.

But do I need to know about every terrible thing happening in the world? Does it help change things in any way? Would I be more likely to make a difference in this world being a calm, happier person who doesn't dwell on every real-life horror? I hope so. Because that's the particular tack I'm taking at this moment. Not only does reading the daily free papers upset me, but it also takes up precious free time when I could be writing or reading books on my long list, or spending time chatting with friends (here and abroad).

And I still find out about stuff. It's amazing how much people tell you about current events. If you're interested in something in particular you can then go and read about it. Even just reading the Saturday paper once a week will tell you more than you need to know about anything that has happened in the past seven days (if indeed you want to know about it).

'They' say knowledge is power, and it is, but is all knowledge power? And there are always things we'd rather not know. Does idle horrible gossip about friends or co-workers help anyone? I say, when it comes to knowledge, be selective. Pursue what you're interested in, challenge yourself, but don't think you need to know everything that's going on – all knowledge certainly isn't equal.

Related posts (on attempting to avoid some stress):


  1. Personally, I get bits of the important news on the Internet on lunch, or via the TV morning news when I have it on to catch the weather, and the rest... Is a volcano likely to explode in my vicinity - in the NEAR future? If not, I'm not gonna stress about it.

    I have only so many minutes in the day, and I'm going to spend my FREE minutes doing something that makes ME feel good - whether it's exercising, reading, watching a movie, visiting with friends. Catching up on all the dreadful things happening in the world does not make me feel happy or peaceful.

  2. Taron, I couldn't agree with you more. I stopped reading The Guardian and turned to the Financial Times for that particular reason. The papers are full of awful domestic events, always happening to children, and always including deaths of some sort. I just couldn't stand it any longer. And the news on the radio often starts off with gruesome details of a fire killing five children with the mother standing outside screaming, after which it moves on to discuss the government's reforms for the health sector or something... And I have often asked myself - is this really something the public needs to know, what purpose did the media serve here.

  3. I'm so glad that there are others out there who agree with me. I was worried I would be told I was just sticking my head in the sand!


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