It is easy to notice gossip or hysteria in the news sometimes. This brings me to wonder how much of the news is actually gossip and hysteria. Since gossip and news closely correlate (p.572) they are definitely equivalent, at least in the grand scheme of things.
We think of news as a serious attempt to report the truth, while gossip is more about an exchange of frivolous hearsay. Yet, one could say, “One person’s serious is another person’s frivolous”. Google [Making informed decisions about mammograms] for data that relates to this question. In light of the widely covered uproar over advice on mammograms, this little tidbit really struck me.
“Imagine 10,000 women age 40. Over the next 10 years, without mammogram screening, about 35 will die of breast cancer. With screening, 30 will die — five fewer.
But of 10,000 getting screened, 600 to 2,000 will have at least one false positive leading to a biopsy, and 10 to 50 will be over-diagnosed. They will be told they have cancer, and they will undergo surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, which can only hurt them since their cancer was never destined to cause symptoms or death.”
Five fewer deaths out of 10,000 is the benefit of mammograms at age 40, against the host of negatives of over diagnosis, false positives, etc. I never heard that explained in the news, and I know why. This balanced view requires serious and thoughtful reflection to evaluate… and that takes work!
This is just one example, but I wonder about the other news stories, from the daily turmoil to global warming. When gossip and hysteria easily play a role in the news, it is tempting to downplay all the news. It is like Aesop’s Fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which ends with the old man saying, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!” You see the same idea in the 25-century-old folk tale, Chicken Little, with its hysterical claim of “The sky is falling!” and in the Buddhist Jâtaka Tales, The Foolish, Timid Rabbit, where upon hearing noise, the Rabbit claims “The earth is all breaking up!”
This tells me that not much has changed since Buddha’s and Aesop’s time. Sure, the modes of communication and cultural traditions have changed greatly, but the essentials are the same. It is comforting to know some things never change even when the world around us is changing at what feels like light speed. On the other hand, how comforting is it feeling that what really needs to change never seems to?
What else can one do but seize the moment and make the most of it, as Chapter 19 hints, Exhibit the unadorned and embrace the uncarved block, Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible. Note: This is not saying one must be perfect, but instead to do as possible. For me, doing as possible is true natural perfection, as opposed to the ‘carved’ and adorned human ideals of perfection.