Let the landscape be covered with thorny crust.
We have a soft garden in here.
The continents blasted,
cities and little towns, everything
become a scorched, blackened ball.
The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
but the real news inside here
is there's no news at all.
--Rumi (Trans. by Coleman Barks)
Many of us these days seem to believe that the state of the planet and of the human condition is worse than it’s ever been. But how can you or I accurately compare then and now? And if we do hold this view, how do we react to it? Definitely we can say that we’re more acutely aware these days than ever before of the innumerable ways we could end our tenure on earth—and destroy our children’s future. But beyond that, who knows?
The events that are transpiring daily at an ever quickening pace, or so it seems with our 24/7 news cycle, compel our attention with their immediacy and intensity, and we may feel it our duty to keep track and respond in some way. So we check the internet and watch the news regularly, filling our minds with statistics, predictions, opinions, detailed reports, and endless images of conflict, starvation, and devastation. But how does this preoccupation benefit us and the world around us? How does it serve those we love (however broad that circle may be), the environment, or the future of life on this planet?
If we do it to gather information that then empowers us to take effective action to respond to the many critical situations that confront us, then watching the news can be an invaluable resource—though of course we would do well to choose our sources wisely lest we be misinformed, a sizable task of discernment in itself.
But if we ingest the images, statistics, and opinions that constitute what we loosely call news in order to satisfy an insatiable hunger for variety and drama or to fuel a depressed, frightened, or agitated mood, we’re allowing this material—which is after all nothing more than a stream of thoughts—to undermine our connection with the richness, completeness, and mystery of reality just as it is, beyond the mind.
Any dream we inhabit—even if it’s a consensual dream, a worldview we share with others of a similar persuasion—seduces us back out of the pure light of our innate wakefulness into yet another illusion, with its own belief systems and corresponding emotions and attachments. If we’re committed to staying awake, we need to shine the light of awareness on our relationship with the news, penetrate its mesmerizing, dreamlike quality, and realize that what’s occurring now, no matter how disturbing, is just an expression of the one deeper and indivisible reality. Assess the situation realistically and take appropriate action if we feel moved to do so, but don’t mistake the dream for the deeper truth. Beneath the proccupation with past and future scenarios that every dream entails lies the hidden possibility of opening to the timeless, radiant, ungraspable Now.
Consider our preoccupation with the preeminent newsmaker of our historical moment, Donald Trump. We’re all aware that Trump’s primary agenda is to polarize and divide, and in so doing to strike at the heart of our deeper knowing as human beings that we are undivided and inseparable. For this reason, among others, just about everyone I know has strong opinions about him. But what is ironic and unfortunate is that, in our passionate antipathy toward Trump and everything he stands for, we risk doing precisely what he goads us to do—polarize and divide, not only from him and those who support him, but from the core of our being, our nondual essential nature, our deepest inner knowing.
So let’s read the news, but stay aware as we do. Notice what gets stirred up, where the mind goes, what we make of the words on the page, how we construct some hypothetical version of reality and then act as if it were truth. Allow the events we witness or read about to touch and move us, but resist the temptation to see the narratives and interpretations the mind is prone to concocting as more than just provisional. Let any response arise from the deepest place inside, rather than from some beliefs about how reality is supposed to be.
And let’s remember what Rumi tells us: Beneath the so-called news lies the eternal silence and stillness of our essential nature, which abides undisturbed amidst the endless creation and destruction, gain and loss, advance and decline, pain and pleasure, of manifest existence. Here--no matter how dire the circumstances, in the nothing at the heart of everything--there’s always no news at all.