Yes, this claim has been levelled against me - this evening, in fact, over a very good curry in Leicester. I can't help but agree sometimes, especially when dealing with myself or the world. I hear of the crisis elsewhere, my generation as the 'doomed' generation with no pension, falling house prices and debt-laden education. The news and comment certainly has a lot to answer, when you consider how much we soak in just from other people, let alone a religious viewing of the headlines each day.
I'm reminded of the lady who directed me in Measure for Measure in India, now 3 years ago. She said that she doesn't like reading books, because it's essentially other people's vomit written down. Information is out there, we soak it in and then writers filter it into their work. So much more therefore is the news with the constant barrage of up-to-the-minute commentary and rolling bulletins, telling you what to think about.
I'm working through a backlog of books from my shelves at the moment. I must admit to some enslavement by my laptop: emails coming in, Twitter and RSS feeds constantly being updated - it can keep me 'busy' for hours. Last week I shut it off and read a book instead, and it was magical. I've started a new one today, and in it I found the words:
"The lunatic's visions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilisation is founded on the shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony." - The Varieties of Religious Experience, William JamesWhilst it's quite easy to look at our civilisation is going to the dogs, hearing the media place value judgements on what constitutes a good life, it's also good to remind ourselves that for every case of Bad Things reported, there are plenty of Good Things that don't get the presses rolling. Aircraft carry millions of passengers every week, but the occasional crash reporting certainly goes some way towards some thinking it a dangerous way to travel.
I certainly feel though like my pessimism is simply lunacy on my part, that I draw on the facts - and the comment, smoke and mirrors thereon - to create a vision of horror and doom for the world and myself. My director's right - we do steep ourselves in vomit and miss out on the Good Things that go by unreported, the beauty, depth and humanity in the world. That evening where I switched off the stream showed me that there was life before the internet, and books could give me something that twitter could not.
Only the madman can see the path clearly through the tangled forest, after all.