Just A Thought – The Importance of Reading the News
February 11, 2015 § 2 Comments
I have to admit, I am bad at keeping up with the news. For various reasons, I often tend to avoid staying on top of many of the ongoing topics in the media today. However, whether if you are looking at it from a voting point of view or from a writing point of view, that is a poor decision to make. Having a reliable, unbiased news source is very important for any writer, business owner, or general citizen. It not only allows us to be more informed and active citizens, but it also allows us to do our jobs better. How can you really write without knowing the full experience of what is going on in your world? How can you effectively run a business without knowing how current events may be affecting you and your future business? Emilie makes a very good point below, and includes some tips on how to get a more “clear” picture on what is going on in the world so you can make your own decisions without the hyped up “stories” that the media likes to portray lately. –JC
With the amount of free news widely available, it seems almost criminal to not be informed about current events. However, in this media soaked environment, it’s not only important that you stay informed but also that you get your news from a variety of different sources.
Most Americans get their news by watching television, opting for networks like CNN, FOX, or local channels.* Though watching the news is sometimes more convenient and is free and easily accessible, it is often the most biased and skewed way to receive information, especially political news. Getting the news from another person can greatly influence our own opinions, and therefore, it’s important to take the time to actually read the news.
I think the best way to navigate through the hyperactive media environment of today is to read the news either in print, online, or on your cellphone. Especially when considering political issues, it’s important to read about both sides of the issue and make up your own mind before being influenced by the prejudices of other people.
I personally believe that one of the best news sources available is the Associated Press. I generally read AP news on my cellphone through their free app, but they also have a free website and twitter account. The AP provides free, unbiased breaking news and often does specialty pieces where they assess the truth behind divisive political issues. Recently the AP put out an article, “Fact Check: Both Sides in Keystone XL Debate Bend Facts” where they investigate both sides of the debate surrounding the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline and reveal that, as with most issues, each side stretches the truth to make their argument.
It’s especially important with political issues to read about the issues from a more unbiased source like the AP or the Washington Post (which also has a free app and website). Most television networks and many other media sources skew their information to place blame on one political party or another for the inactivity and constant debate in Washington, when really both sides are playing an active role. Clearly newswriting can be highly biased as well, but at least by reading the news you can discern the facts for yourself. Reading the news and varying your sources of information is also a way to actively participate in politics; it allows you to understand for yourself what policy decisions are being made and which politicians are involved. To be a conscious voter, it is important to be informed and hold politicians accountable for their actions.
When I was recently in Washington, D.C., I went to one of my favorite museums, the Newseum—a museum of news and journalism. Written on one of the walls is this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Knowledge is indeed power and staying informed, especially about political issues both foreign and domestic, gives us power in our government. Just a thought.
Photo Credit: Emilie Nadler
Photo Copyright (c) 2015 Emilie Nadler. All rights reserved.
Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.
Just a Thought: A Different Perspective
March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Our society tends to be very linear these days. There seems to be a regulation or procedure for everything. Social media is overflowing with people constantly arguing about which side is “right” or “wrong.” Why does there always only have to be just one answer? The beauty in this world comes from the differences. Some of the best things in life came about because first, someone had a little originality.
That’s one of the many things I love about the Arts – they often make you look at things from a different perspective.
The motto at Skidmore College is “Creative Thought Matters.” How true in so many ways! Most of the time there isn’t just one way to do things. There isn’t just one clear answer. And, how you come to your own answer really all depends on how you approach it.
There is not a clear-cut category for every little thing (Thank goodness!). Perhaps that is why a group like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra became so huge over the last several years. From the name, it sounds like they’re just your standard orchestra, but have you ever been to one of their shows? There is nothing “standard” about them! Go to one of their concerts and you’ll see that their audience includes children right up to senior citizens. Not too many groups can pull that one off!
The below video has been making the rounds on social media lately and does the same type of thing. You are set up with an expectation – 2 cellos, old-fashioned attire. But then you are shocked with a rock & roll sound – looking at things from a different perspective. And what a wonderful, magical, awesome outcome!
That’s how we should approach life – look at things from a different perspective. Use creative thought. Keep everyone around you on their toes and your brain fresh. Always look for another way. Don’t fall into “the standard” trap of doing or thinking about everything in the “usual” way. Have an open mind. Step out. Step up. Make your mark in your own personal world. You’d be surprised how much magic can creep into your life!
Just a thought.
Just a Thought: Journaling in the Digital Age
April 23, 2013 § 2 Comments
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about journaling. A few weeks ago I was at my parents’ apartment trying to help with the yearly spring cleaning, but instead of finally throwing away the clothes I never wear, I became distracted by a box full of books from my childhood. Tucked between a worn copy of The Outsiders and a Judy Blume novel I can’t remember reading, I found the first journal I ever kept.
I’ve made a lot of attempts at keeping journals, some more successful than others. But none of my more recent attempts compare to the tenacity with which I kept my first journal. Thumbing through the spiral bound pages of the colorful notebook, I was shocked to realize that I wrote nearly every day. I was just eight years old when I started this journal; how could I have filled so many pages?
It turns out, I wrote about everything. My days at school. My feelings toward friends. My frustration with my older brothers. My fear that the coolest kids in the class didn’t know my name. The thing that struck me the most was how unconcerned the younger version of myself seemed with what I was writing. I was just venting, fearlessly, confidently, without an ounce of hesitation.
I was so blown away by how much I had to write, and how willing I was to write it, that I had to stop and reassess for a moment: What changed between that journal and my more recent attempts?
I haven’t touched my most recent journal since January 2012, and I’m convinced that my negligence is partially due to being “on” all the time. I can’t remember the last time I had enough down time to do something just for myself without feeling guilty about it, without feeling like I’m neglecting work or forgetting to respond to e-mail. It sometimes seems like everyone is moving so fast and doing so much that if you do have time to just focus on yourself, you’re probably doing something wrong.
When I sit down to journal now, I often find myself thinking: Do I really have the time to just write about my feelings for a while? Is this more important than my to-do list?
I suspect I’m not alone in my hesitancy.
But if you consider mental and physical well-being important, journaling shouldn’t feel like an extravagant indulgence. Research has proven that taking the time to process your thoughts — to reflect on interpersonal conflicts, or even just to write down a quick account of your day—has tangible psychological benefits, as explained in a superb article from PsychCentral:
“The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”
Additionally, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have found that journaling can protect your physical health as well—regular journaling strengthens your immune cells and decreases the impact of stress on your physical health by helping you come to terms with and manage the stressors in your life.
So maybe we shouldn’t feel guilty about journaling. But for many, I’m sure the concept of writing in a journal is daunting for other reasons.
One of my oft-cited reasons for not writing in my journal is that I simply don’t know what to write. What’s important enough to put on paper? To save and go back to later? But the fact of the matter is that you can write about anything, as long as you’re writing without barriers.
Researchers say that writing for 20 minutes daily is the ideal if you’re writing with health benefits in mind, but offer few other directives other than to just let your guard down. Don’t worry about what’s important or how you might feel about your entry two years from now. Just write. If it helps you get started, pick a topic to write about (relationships, your work, the books you’re reading) each day, week or month. Whatever you can maintain.
I’ve decided to challenge myself to write in a journal at least five days per week for the next six weeks to see if I can get back into the habit. I’m going to force myself to make time to just be with my thoughts, to “turn off” for a while in order to turn inward and gain a better sense of myself.
And to keep myself on track, I’ve decided to try doing this in a new medium. A friend recently brought to my attention the existence of journaling apps—programs that you can install on your laptop and smart phone that will not only allow you to securely journal from anywhere, but that also allow you to set up reminders. The apps will actually e-mail or text you reminding you to write.
And while I recognize the irony in “turning off” through a journaling application on my smartphone, the primary source of my constant need to be on in the first place, I think it will be an interesting experiment: Is it possible to translate something as timeless as the paper journal into the digital world? I’m going to try to find out.
But no matter what your chosen medium is, I think we should all try to journal. Not just for ourselves, but for each other. Because I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather live in a world where we all take a few moments a day to step back and reassess.
Just a thought.
Photo Credit: Sueanna
Just a Thought: Live Arts misses the boat with writing
February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
New York Live Arts (NYLA), the movement arts group led by renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones, recently announced that it would begin hosting an annual festival dedicated to exploring the interplay of art and ideas. Dubbed “Live Arts,” the festival will explore a different sub-theme each year. The first annual festival, which will run from April 17-21 in New York City, is tentatively titled “The World of Oliver Sacks” and will commemorate the great body of work Sacks has contributed to the world of neurology and, more specifically, the understanding of the connection between creative expression and the body. Outside of the medical world, Sacks is best known for his memoir Awakenings, which inspired the 1990 film starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams.
The schedule for the five-day festival has already been released, and for anyone interested in the world of artistic expression, or the world of science, there’s much to be excited about. Highlights include:
- Jones and Sacks will participate in a keynote conversation about the overlaps in the world of neurology and the world of choreography
- Bill Morrison will premiere his new film, RE:Awakenings, which is based on original footage shot by Sacks
- Many of the neurologist’s former patients will sit on panels to discuss the impact of Sack’s creative inclinations on their healing and coping processes
- Philosophers, writers, and doctors will host discussions dedicated to the doctor’s many critically-acclaimed books
Though not all the events are free, ticket prices are low enough to make them accessible to the general community. Overall, the new festival promises to be engaging, enlightening, and educational.
In perusing the events schedule, however, I’ve found what seems to me a disappointing oversight in the content. As the festival is hosted by NYLA, the emphasis on music and dance-related material makes sense and I’d happily attend any of the advertised panels, performances, or discussions. But I can’t help but yearn for an event—just one—dedicated to the exploring the relationship between writing and health. Sacks is a prolific writer who, if my experience is any benchmark, has had a profound influence on writers everywhere. Through his many medically inclined but exceptionally readable books, Sacks has proven that reflective personal narrative and detailed, informative scientific prose are not mutually exclusive.
Yet, based on the information made available so far, only one of the festival’s events will deal directly with Sacks the writer, but not from the perspective of the mind-body connection. The moderated panel “Sacks the Writer: Process and Influence,” will feature two of the doctor’s editors and two fellow writers discussing the lasting impact of Sacks’ twelve books and countless articles on the writing world. But Sacks himself, it seems, will not speak and the connection between the writing process and mental and physical health won’t necessarily be explored.
As someone who began writing at a very young age, I believe quite strongly in the cathartic power of the written word, of journaling, of crafting a pro-con list before making a difficult decision. Research has confirmed the positive effects of writing (both creative writing like poetry and autobiographical writing) on patients in both mental and physical distress, and therapeutic writing workshops are interestingly beginning to gain popularity even as talk therapy is on the decline.
If the first Live Arts festival is going to explore Sacks’ contribution to our understanding of the connection between art and health, I think it would be incredibly enlightening to hear the doctor speak about the impact writing has had on his well-being. I imagine Sacks’ day-to-day life must often be excessively stressful. A large portion of his medical career has been spent working with patients in the direst circumstances—patients with debilitating disabilities and little will to live. Sacks chronicles these interactions beautifully in his essays and books but rarely directly confronts his own emotional state, and this reader can’t help but wonder if the doctor turner author has ever reflected on the role writing has played in his ability to sustain himself in such an emotionally and mentally straining field of work.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Sacks told a reporter, “It infuriates me not to be able to write something that has popped into my mind.” To me, this indicates that Sacks does see writing as a calming activity, as I like to think most writers do. Adding a conversation about this connection, about the role of writing in the pursuance of greater overall well-being, to the Live Arts lineup could encourage continued conversation and awareness around the phenomenal impact writing can have on a person’s emotional, mental and physical health. Like dancing, playing an instrument, or composing a song, writing is an inherently creative and active process that can offer emotional relief and foster greater self-awareness. Taking a little time out of each day to reflect, in writing, on your emotional state can help you heal after a traumatic event, serve as an outlet for working out minor frustrations without falling victim to needless stressors, or allow you to celebrate and preserve positive experiences. And while I’m sure Oliver Sacks would agree, I nevertheless think the greater Live Arts audience could benefit from hearing the doctor’s experiences with writing as a form of catharsis.
Just a thought.
– Jean-Ann Kubler