catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 7 :: 2014.04.04 — 2014.04.17


All my tall tales

I love narratives and the many ways they are told and absorbed. My grandmother, the English teacher, did not allow me to simply read. If I was not armed with a highlighter, pencil, paper and dictionary grafting information onto my bones, I was not reading properly. Though in my adolescence I rebelled fiercely and foolhardily against this, old habits, much to Grandma’s delight, have proven to die hard.

So it is when I take in the news. While there are certainly topics that catch my passions more than others, I can’t help but write a couple of words about the significance of the increasing number of jellyfish in the Pacific, or the rising popularity of Santa Muerte in Michoacan, or the rising cost of living in Baghdad are important. The news, whether it comes from Kanye West or Glenn Beck, is for me the story of what we value, how we are connected, and it provides context for all of my actions.

When I am passionate about something, I go deeper: anymore it is difficult for me to read a story about the Westboro Baptist Church without consulting CNN, Fox, BBC, Al Jazeera, Relevant Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Onion, the user comments on all of the above, and — as important as all the others — Westboro’s own literature, to see how their story is told and how they tell their own story. I think when I presume to ignore a perspective on something I am even tangentially interested in, I do myself and the world a disservice. 

In my life, I seek a balance between what I consume and how I consume. I have my content and I have my framework. As an undergrad in conflict resolution, with a decade spent attempting to wear the shoes of “the other.” I take in a huge amount of varied content on any one thing I am interested in and run it through a Father, Son, Holy Spirit worldview.  I try to take off the blinders: when I read I try to cease being my nationality or my race or my socioeconomic background; an impossible feat, but I try. Let go of what is comfortable, let go of my assigning importance, let go of what I expect to get out of a story.

For me, I have to be very careful to not turn news into an echo chamber affirming my own beliefs or even into entertainment, though I think both of these things can hold value when recognized for what they are. There was a time when I allowed certain media personalities and outlets to rearrange me. “How could they…how dare they…they are terrible and unworthy to be heard,” I would think, and I saw myself becoming them. I think truth in the telling of events is important, but I think recognizing the lies we and others weave into our narratives is just as important. I would strive to learn and act so that the news would be less of a fairy tale, and more of an incomplete road map. 

For me, the news does not necessarily need to be new to be useful or relevant; if a soul has not heard the Gospel or heard it in this way or that way, then it is new, and it is good news. I have a past, present and future orientation when I see a story about workers striking in Venice. C. S. Lewis counseled that old literature holds value in centering us and guarding us against falling into error — I would suggest the same is true of old news; and so when the sound of Venetian rioters fades, I ask, “What did Marcus Aurelius have to say about the Italians? What are they now saying about themselves? What will likely be done about it?” 

Obituaries and gossip columns tell me who my neighbors love and what they want to remember. Whether it is disseminated by ministries of information, dropped from C-130s, hung on lockers or produced by teen-agers in their parents’ basement, it is important. Whether the shots are heard on the other side of the earth or whether our tragedies are told only by the tongues of eyewitnesses, that they are told changes the world. I prefer to engage others in processing what I learn, but, even if I am alone, the news is always a conversation and a call — a call to know more, a call to reflect, a call to challenge, a call against apathy, a call to act.

I am, so much, what I know; the tall tales that I am told and that I believe. Though it never seems to tell me all, I love to hear the tales the news tells. 

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