terminal threshold

This morning the city smelled like smoke but you know it’s not the friendly campfire smoke, but the burning building smoke and maybe people are in danger, not roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories but instead fighting for their lives as their home goes up in flames. Regardless I continue on my mission to walk the dog because he has his needs and I am here to help meet them. That is what I am to do at this very moment. Later on I have to wonder while reading the Sunday newspaper (subscribed to in a post-inauguration panic) what the terminal threshold is for learning the details of others’ suffering. What is that outer limit of knowledge regarding how hard it is for people to live their daily lives, beyond which there is no value in further absorption. For that is what comprises most of the news. It is a catalog of the world’s suffering accompanied by an explication of the delusions that fuel it. Sometimes I have to turn off the radio or let the papers pile up simply to give myself space and time to breathe. I know people are suffering and I want them to not suffer but there are only certain ways for me to help, and I’m not sure that one of those ways is to keep listening to and reading more and more of the details about how they are suffering and what this or that pundit thinks about why that suffering exists. After a certain point, possibly the terminal threshold, it feels like voyeurism and nothing more. It’s like the photo collection at work, full of countless portraits of the worst forms of human suffering, sometimes so extreme (usually during the annual contest when hundreds more pour in all at once) that I not so much become numb to their effects as want to hide under my desk, away from the screen, to rock back and forth muttering about my ever-waning faith in the possibility of peace and justice. But it’s this intercessory nature of the media that is the issue. I don’t need them prioritizing human suffering, categorizing it, interpreting it, and serving it up to me in bite-sized nuggets for me to swallow like a dry cracker with no water chaser. Rather, if you are suffering and want to talk about it or write it down I can listen or read as you share your pain in your own words, not those of an intermediary with some probable agenda, even as banal as needing to file a story in order to get paid. Thank you and have a good day.

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