Editorial: Don’t Be Afraid of The Light

A lot has been happening lately beyond Greenwich’s borders that has friends and neighbors talking. There is an anxiety or fear that seems to have slipped into our lives and taken up residency. National politics, mass shootings, the economy, and the war in Ukraine, just to name a few, are filling our airwaves and our psyche with an onslaught of negative and violent stories. It can be overwhelming. We hear it wherever we go in town. It is as if we all are getting too used to these dark images and are letting them dominate our conversations and everyday lives.

Plato said: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Yes, there are always bad things happening in the world. These days they are even more amplified by constant access to information. How we deal with the fear and stress this manifests is important. It is when we do not manage it well that it becomes debilitating. Our friend and Sentinel Columnist, Reverend Dr. Heather Wright and her colleague George Faller have written a book called Sacred Stress. It is a fascinating look at turning our traditional notion of stress upside down and using the stress we all face to actually enrich our daily lives. It is a good read, easily obtained at the Dogwood Bookstore in the Christ Church campus (if you mention the Sentinel you can get a free cup of coffee too).

It may also be time to unplug the wifi router, turn off the TV, store the iPad, and put your phone down. It is summer after all, a chance to pause looking at screens for awhile to remember/see what that is like. By looking at each other and talking, we share information that is helpful in our managing stress in our daily lives. Take the time to be present not only in your own life, but others lives as well. It is easy to get lost in a screen for hours on end and to forget the benefits of having conversations with people.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” If you are looking for the negative and violent stories – a habit now referred to as doomscrolling – you will find them. There is no shortage.

Unfortunately, many social media networks are incentivized to push trending topics into your feeds. Add in that trending topics these days are wrapped up in tragedies and global chaos and the problem of doomscrolling intensifies, becoming more a survival-oriented behavior. We are literally putting ourselves in fight-or-flight mode every morning and every evening.

As humans, we do pay more attention to negative information. It is a longstanding survival mechanism. This, along with social media algorithms, makes doomscrolling difficult to escape.

Here are a few things you may want to try:

Set up technology-free zones, rooms that are emptied of telephones, iPads, televisions, and other technological gadgets where you and your family can congregate or unwind.

Create a home library and begin always keeping a book or newspaper or magazine with you. Printed material will not accidentally morph onto the internet.

Turn off phone notifications for emails and social media. It’s too challenging to ignore alerts.

Try a digital detox this summer. Let people know, just like you would if you were taking a vacation.

Taking a simple breather can work miracles.

At the end of the day, our hometown is the perfect place to unplug precisely because it has so much to offer. Yes, there is a lot of bad in the world, but there is a stunning amount of good as well, particularly here. All you have to do is look around town to find an example. Take a breath, and use your new found time to visit a museum or art gallery, go for a hike in one of our many preserves or walk in the parks, and enjoy the beauty Greenwich has to offer.

Check out the Community Calendar on page B3 in this paper for even more ideas. Happy unplugging!

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