Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 804 The Weather & News

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

It had been a long winter in Alaska. We sat on the deck in the spring sunshine. Dan, our 12 year old son, sat just inside the screen and was reading a book. I said, “Why don’t you come out on the deck? It is beautiful out here." He replied: “Never let the weather dictate what you do with your life” 

He was throwing my own words back at me. Through out our time in Alaska, whenever we were considering outdoor activity, I would always use that bit of persuasion, “Never let the weather dictate what you do with your life”. It became a family saying; usually in a mocking tone.

We lived on the side of a mountain and near the ocean. Weather can change fast. Many times we would leave home in the snow or rain and find sunshine just a few minutes away. Or, of course, we might find snow and rain. It was always a bit of a guessing game. But the argument usually won the day and we would venture out.

Our culture seem to be weather obsessed. People like to talk about it. Listen to it. or watch it  on TV. I remember being amazed to find there was even a TV channel that has nothing but weather on it. People like to know what the weather has been during the day; they like to know what it will be tomorrow and on into the following week. They want to know what the weather will be like where they live and they like to know what the weather is far across the country. I’ve never been able to understand this obsession with weather.  But there it is.

Growing up in the Midwest I can understand the interest of farmers in future weather reports. Weather might make a difference in what your activity may be the following day. But honestly, I have sat in the living rooms of Midwestern farm houses where no activity was planned that might be dependent on weather and yet everyone must be quiet and respect the need to know what the weather might be the following day.

On top of the need to hear a forecast for the following day, there seemed to be a need for multiple reports each day: weather in the morning, weather at noon, weather at dinner and weather just before signing off and going to bed. It’s too much for me.

All of this consideration of weather reminds me of news obsessed folks, or, “news junkies” as they sometimes call themselves. I have never been able to understand them either. I mean there is news and then there is “news”. I consider the news to be finding out something you didn’t already know: something new, something that might have meaning for you. Then there is “news” in quotes. This is something you already know, or  something that really isn’t going to affect you a great deal (like the Dow/Jones industrial average). Something you could easily go through life without knowing.

This latter kind of news is beautifully illustrated in most TV news reports. Not only does it not really inform but it can be very misleading.  One can be tricked into thinking that you are informed when you really are not. I recall being amazed watching the evening news on TV at my in-laws one time. The reports are so brief. It’s like reading just the headlines of articles in the paper or a magazine; maybe two minutes for a feature or "in-depth" story and then 20 or perhaps 30 seconds for every thing else. It was absurd.

This skimpy treatment of complex events is ludicrous. People are led to believe they are keeping informed when they really are not. Better to be ignorant and know it than to lack information and yet think you really know what is going on in the world.

Even more perverse was the focus on the violent and tragic aspects of life. Wars, crashes, fires, crimes and other human tragedies dominate the broadcasts. I can’t imagine how people watch the news early in the day – and then somehow manage to, “enjoy” that particular day. Even more difficult to understand is how one can sleep after just watching the horrors of daily news programs? How is that possible? Imagine filling your mind with all of that violence, tragedy, political graft and corruption, and then padding off to sleep. “Goodnight”, “Sweet dreams”. Does the violent nature of the newscast have no impact on a restful nights sleep? It does for me.

These are things that I can not understand. As a retired person I might fill much of my time with weather and news. But, I can’t imagine anything less enjoyable. I’ve always wanted to enjoy life as much as possible. Certainly storms will cloud the horizon occasionally, tragedy will strike in my proximity and I do need to stay informed of the conditions of the world but not on an hour to hour, day to day basis. That would take all the fun out of life. When would I laugh? How could I laugh?

You might be asking yourself: “Well, what is a person to do? How can I stay informed? How can I know what I need to know? This sounds like a topic for another day. Right now I need to grab my umbrella - just in case - and step out of this coffee shop and let something interesting, different, or just plain funny roll over me.

This is retirement talk.





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