Monday, October 27, 2014

one and done

At a time when I was hip-deep in enthusiasm for news and news reporting, an older colleague mentioned casually that the most popular arenas in a newspaper were sports, obituaries, comics and horoscopes. The observation left me flabbergasted at a time when I was convinced about the need for and value of news reporting.

I can actually remember a time when I talked the city editor into letting me do two stories -- of equal length and standing side by side -- that offered the 'for' and 'against' facts of a particular school issue that seemed to go on and on: I was convinced that if the facts were presented, the the reader could make up his/her mind and I could stop writing stories that never seemed to end.

It was the beginning of my journalistic education: In general, facts don't convince people ... their beliefs do. The idealist within me could writhe as much as it liked. My two stories elicited a nice note from the superintendent of schools and ... the stories kept needing to be done ... twice-chewed gum chewed yet again.

Obituaries, sports, comics and horoscopes are about as close as anyone can come to fulfilling a desire for a 'conclusion' ... a sense of one-and-done ... a the-end on a particular topic. The fulfillment is not perfect, of course, but it's a lot closer than news stories will ever get: Here is something that I no longer have to think about; like a mystery novel, the case is wrapped up; and there is something comforting about NOT having to rechew today's journalistic gum tomorrow.

One-and-done: There is only so much information that anyone is willing to ingest before exhaustion kicks in. "Enough!" the mind insists. Instead of going on and on and on and on, I will make my choice and believe whatever it is I believe about the treatment of Palestinians; the corruption or high points of religion; the education of children like my own; the latest war my government has decided to begin or continue; or the marvels of a sunset. One and done: I have enough stuff cluttering my life and, right, wrong or indifferent, I will believe ... whatever it is I choose to believe.

And it is here that there is something soothing about obituaries, sports, comics and horoscopes. In large measure, each is more clearly complete than other stories: Dead is dead; the game is over; the panels make their amusing point; and the prognostication may be true or false but in any case has no real impact outside fortifying the beliefs I already hold.

One-and-done: How nice to place some task or thought process in the rearview mirror. It's not a perfect solution, but it's easier. Easier, and seems to accord with the fact that what I do is done ... for the moment. Belief may have palpable and sometimes painful flaws, but ... well, I'd rather watch TV for a while and adding more information seems incapable of solving much ... just as failing to add information also seems incapable of solving much.

One-and-done is the way of the world and simultaneously is utterly impossible.

Or anyway, that's that I believe.

1 comment:

  1. A common axiom in the psych community is that the prover proves what the believer believes. But my experience of reason brings me to believe whoever said that logic was an infinite bog.