Why does it seem that nearly all the news you read is about bad stuff? Not just about the Middle East — bad news all the time about everything — war, suicide, Ebola, global warming, you name it? The best explanation for this phenomenon is offered by Evolutionary Biology. It suggests that we are wired, as human beings, to focus on bad news. It’s related to the evolutionary need for survival – we have evolved as social animals to communicate important bad news to enhance chances for survival: which berries are poisonous (notice it’s not which berries taste amazing), whether there are lions out there or unsafe waters to cross. Since you need immediate access to this information to improve your chances to survive, the focus is on 1. what is dangerous and 2. keeping the concept as simple and short as possible. The brain, therefore, to react in real-time wants a list of risks and dangers and that the list must be as simple and immediate as possible.
This explains the overall negative slant to news: bad stuff with simplified understanding, imagery and recall. The mind will therefore, in general, reject context (too complicated), nuance (needs to be a simple list) and good stuff (good stuff will not eat me).
One needs to watch or digest news, regardless of the medium or the political orientation, with a significant awareness of how limited this picture is and that the story and context is always greater than what is portrayed. Furthermore, there is always great stuff going on that is out there but we don’t really hear about it with all the negative noise. Good stuff goes on in Israel all the time.
Think about this: a shark attack anywhere in the world creates immediate fear and flight/fright reactions even though the number of shark attacks and deaths may be in single digits in any given year. Compare that with the hundred’s of thousands who die from complications of smoking or obesity and you get my drift. The best bad news is information that says: you are in danger. Our minds feed on this and smoking is just too “normal” to make it up the bad news scale. Our bad news filters very often over-compensate for bad news in a way that may even avoid the real dangers out there — let alone the context of things or the good stuff going on. Islamic State is definitely a bunch a bad dudes with an attitude, but see how a few beheadings generates more noise than Iran producing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver them!
With news cycles being 24 hours today and the lack of viable news on a real-time basis, the continuous repeating, for example, something negative that just happened to Israel over dramatizes this event at the expense of context, balance and meaning. You need to be aware of this otherwise the news can drive one to distraction and worse yet, it can lead to bad decisions, mistaken conclusions and poor priorities. IS vs Iran is just one example of misdirected priorities.
So let me get to my “good news” story for the day.
The other evening about 100 weirdos came to an “Aliyah to Berlin” event in downtown Tel Aviv — in other words — these 100 people were so pissed off with Israel that they can’t wait to leave and move to Germany (I kid you not)! This generated lots of coverage in Israel. The other event that was truly amazing was to watch thousands of people marching towards Jerusalem during the Succot/Tabernacle Festival reenacting the ancient custom of the Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The 100 weirdos were inconsequential yet got headline news — the march to Jerusalem was significantly consequential and faded quickly in the news cycle. I want to focus the real news — the good news — of the day: the Jerusalem march.
This past Tuesday morning I went riding off-road from near our apartment in Ramat Eschol in Jerusalem on the new bike path that the Israeli government (also good news) has been building from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (in fact, there are bike paths now from the very north of Israel to Eilat). About 40 minutes into my ride I came upon people of all ages and backgrounds marching towards Jerusalem. There were parents with their kids, groups of friend, singles and couples along with communities and company employees. They started marching around 6:30 AM to arrive in the center of Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Succot and the tradition of “aliyat ha-regel”, the Pilgrimage on Tabernacles to Jerusalem during ancient times. What makes this holiday so special is that it was considered even 2,000 years ago to be a festival for the world and offerings were made to bless the “70 nations of the world” during our Temple services. Universal values at its best.
What was most fun was watching the groups organized by companies and associations. They marched in formation dressed the same and singing songs of Jerusalem — modern ones and songs based upon King David’s Psalms. Among the companies passing me, I recorded employees of our electric company marching in lock-step on dusty off-road trails, singing and carrying a small model of an electric plant and smokestack. Another group were from Rafael industries, producers of the Iron Dome, marching in tight formation with a small model of an Iron Dome Missile on a pole. And there was Bank Leumi carrying flags of Israel and their Bank while marching and singing.
Here are a few of the photos and videos links which I took with my iPhone (I am shooting while riding and I got so caught up I started to sing in one part of the video):
Though I did not see it myself, I know there were groups from dozens of countries marching in solidarity with Israel and Jerusalem. And many of our Christian friends throughout the world came during this important Tabernacles Festival to show solidarity with Israel and to pray for the peace in Jerusalem. And Jewish visitors here for the holidays. It was ALL good. It was inspiring. It was how regular Israelis spend their day doing something that is positive and supportive. I am sure you did not see this in the news.
There is no comparison between the positive energy of thousands of people in Israel as they march to Jerusalem compared to 100 pathetic and angry disenfranchised Israelis making news that they want to move to Germany. Guess which event got more type and hype?
Sure, we should be diligent and aware of the tigers and lions out there that may hurt or kill us but we should not lose sight of the sunsets and gorgeous expanse of savannahs. And content, my friends, counts for everything.