Embracing Wisdom Over Gossip
The drum beat of doom has been pounding out the same headline in the Los Angeles Times for a month now: Beware the Big Melt! The dire warning appeared April 3, April 5, April 11, April 25, April 26, May 3. And again this morning (May 8). Same sensationalism, same embellishment, same catastrophizing.
BIG MELT ‘JUST GETTING STARTED’
Much of the massive Sierra Nevada snowpack remains,
keeping flood risk high as temperatures rise
With an added twist at the bottom of the May 3 column…
FIRE SEASON IS COMING
The wet winter will only delay the inevitable, officials say, as fuels across the
state begin to dry out and become susceptible to ignition.
“Don’t let the rain and the snow fool you,” the expert said. And all that green Nature? It’s just fuel. Armageddon is coming; walls of water and fires from hell.
We shall see.
Meanwhile, glancing at the rest of the paper revealed more slamming of adjectives against nouns to trigger reader fear: danger in LA streets, a disunited kingdom, three stabbings spark fears, etc., etc.
And next year if the drought returns? A new series:
BIG DRY ‘HAS MORE TO COME’
Tiny Snowpack Threatens Water Supply
Fire Danger Increases as Drought Dries Fuels.
Chart: The Snowpack. We’ve been here before, and somehow survived. As with annual rainfall and wildfire in California, the annual snowpack has one pattern – wildly unpredictable with severe swings in either direction, a historical fact the news-gossip media would like you to forget. See date-referenced photos below.
We’ve had prior contact with the Big Melt journalist a couple years ago. She thought she’d found her gotcha headline after the 2021 Alisal Fire in Santa Barbara County – Fuel Break Stopped by Environmentalists Could Have Helped. When we explained the fire likely started in the weeds along the road where the fire break had been planned, then proceeded downhill away from the road and toward the coast, the tone of the conversation changed. As we tried to explain this could be an excellent opportunity to expose how useless backcountry habitat clearance projects really are, the discussion ended. No conflict, no story. No headline.
But terrifying readers about melting snow, and thriving, green habitat? Now that’s the ticket!
The LA Times used to be better.
So, I reentered my rehab program: detoxing from the news. After being six months news sober, I thought my eyes could start drinking again, just a little bit. Wrong. I hit bottom last week with several doses of straight catastrophizing.
The structure of my rehab program is the same as last time. Instead of reading gossip, which is what the news has become, I’m reading wonderful books again like Sapiens by Yuvall Harari, The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, and thoughtful stories in The Sun, an ad-free, independent, reader supported, literary magazine. I’ve learned since last Tuesday that the English language would never have existed had the Romans been able to conquer Germania (Germany); how the fate of Hypatia of Alexandria, killed by a Christian mob, symbolically explains why the hundreds of ancient libraries holding millions of books and the secrets of our conscious development, vanished without a trace; and without imperialism, we’d likely still be hanging bundles of garlic over our doors to ward off yet another plague.
The choice between wisdom and gossip. It is an easy decision.
Imagine it. Instead of succumbing to your base emotions, being frayed by the constant onslaught of imagined conflict, contrived tension, and constantly being told the state of the world is really half empty, you can develop new neural pathways that stimulate your mind rather than further deepening your angst.
Spending the morning with Carl Jung and Albert Camus, exploring the questions we have been asking ourselves for thousands of years, renews one’s spirit to the infinite possibilities we, as human beings, have before us. But we have to make that choice.
You say you like being informed? You need to read the news? Like any addiction, our shadows selves are really quite good at justifying, terminating our inner development.
Take a breath. Consider what actual impact all the conflict, all the danger, that you absorb from the self-proclaimed harbingers of doom, have on your actual, daily life. Now consider the impact of a good book, a beautiful essay, of learning something interesting about the world – something inspiring to talk about.
Then watch what happens in the room when you shift the conversation away from news-gossip to stories of Hypatia, Epicurus, and the origin of language. Spread the magic. Leave the gossip back where it belongs, in the school yard. Reject the merchants of fear and conflict. Embrace your mind and the never ending journey to discover the treasures within.
Give it a try. Life becomes so much more pleasant.
One day at a time. Memento mori.
Don’t waste another moment reading, listening to the gossip.
Photos: Before the Fear Mongering Headlines. Enjoying High Sierran snowpack in 1987, 1989, and 2008,
prior to learning of the terrors of the Big Melt.
Cooper, the Chaparral Institute’s Chief Spiritual Officer with the LA Times during its better days.
Richard, I agree with your thoughts about the media scaring us with tactics that would make Henny Penny blush. Recently, at the height of the greatest wildflower bloom in memory, the LA Times found it necessary to tell us that since the black mustard flowers are not native plants, but ‘invasive weeds’, and they are bad, then we should all volunteer to go out and pull them up!
This is so stupid! First of all, the public could care less about the authenticity of mustard; to the public, they’re beautiful spring flowers. Second, mustard has been around for so long, people assume it is a native wildflower. Third, suggesting that we try pulling them out is a total waste against the sheer numbers of them that are long established in the environment. And fourth, and most philosophically thinking, is my own realization a few years ago of this basic fact, derived all the way back from Charles Darwin: all of our beloved native plants were once ‘invasive weeds’ that became established by taking the place of some previous weaker species. As Dylan has told us so beautifully: “the times (and Mother Nature) they are a-changin”
So unless we’re so convinced of ourselves that mustard had got to be eliminated-by you tell me what means are available, then we better get used to them as part of our SoCal scenery.
I am not trying to defend mustard, or any other ‘foreigners’ in the native plant palette. I’m just thinking realistically.
I enjoy your thoughts: keep em coming! Mike Swimmer. Ojai, CA
Hi Mike. It has taken me a long time to get over my angst about mustard, but you’re right. I’m all in favor of spending resources to keep intact ecosystems intact. But when it comes to mustard in areas that have long been compromised, it’s a waste of time and money to attempt its removal. Even if we can pull it off, another non-native will take its place.
And yeah, finding the negative in a story that should have been celebrating the joy people feel, the LA Times has been on that crusade for the last few years. It is extremely disappointing.
I’ll never forget a meeting I had with Tom LaBonge, the former LA City Councilman. He showed me his annual calendar that he put together to give to his constituents. It had a bunch of photos he had taken. He was especially proud of the field of mustard he had photographed in Griffith Park. I was thoughtful enough not to pull an LA Times on him.
Hi everyone, I also wrestle with native/invasive on my property, 16 acres in the foothills east of Escondido.
I tend to leave flowering plants, including mustard, until the flowers are ending, and then pull the plant and put in the green waste to get rid of the seeds. I’m not to opposed to non-native plants if I like the look and they are not dominating the environment.