What we need is a 24-hour courage cycle

I’m increasingly convinced that the modern 24-hour news cycle blesses almost no one.

With nothing really new to report, even in the midst of the kind of crises the talking heads love to talk about, and talk about, and talk about, the never-pausing news organizations become a kind of TV Twitter assailing those of us who would almost be willing to pay NOT to receive moment by moment updates on our friends’ tying their shoes, eating an exceptionally moist bran muffin, or de-clawing their cat. I’m tired of the twitter-pation. Makes you want to throttle the canary and cease the tweets.

In the midst of the incessant news downpour, one thing is amazing: how quickly a real news story displaces pseudo-news. No doubt about it—when last Friday the terrible earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster hit Japan, actor Charlie Sheen’s on-going meltdown was finally relegated to the back page where it belonged all along.

What’s going on in Japan is real and heartbreaking news, news that the world needs to know about. And, as is always the case in crisis and tragedy, some heartwarming cases of courage and self-sacrifice rise to the surface and inspire us all.

This morning on the news I watched one Japanese couple in their 70’s digging through the ruins of their home and already beginning to clean up and rebuild. They didn’t seem to be waiting for or blaming their government; they just worked with the kind of quiet courage that seems to be characteristic of so many of Japan’s people. That kind of non-glitzy bravery is inspiring. And inspiring on another level is the courage of fifty self-sacrificing workers who have chosen to stay at work in their damaged nuclear plants to try to stave off further disaster.

While those folks are dealing with disaster, our talking heads are, of course, handwringing and searching out all sorts of talking head experts.

On the networks this morning I saw experts of two different types. One was from MIT; he makes his living figuring out how to make things work. Another was of the “Concerned Scientist” variety; he makes his living being scared and scaring others.

Of course, we want our nuclear plants to be as safe as possible, and I’m sure we have much to learn from what’s happening right now. But I suspect we need more and safer nuclear power and not less. If Ben Franklin flying his famous kite had been fritzed by lightning, we’d likely all still be using candles. But perception always trumps reality and the fraternity of the furrowed brow often paralyzes progress. Flying really is safer than driving, but one picture of a crashed jetliner . . .

In any case, 24-hour news is, it seems to me, probably 23 hours too much. What successfully living this life does seem to require, though, is 24-hour courage, and that’s found only in trusting the right Source of power.