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The Delicate Art of Staying Informed

I don't have cable. For six months I was offered a free trial, to get me hooked, and for six months I think I watched a total of 20 hours of television - at least half of which was playoff hockey.

My dad sometimes criticizes me for this. "How do you get your news?" is generally his main concern. As if there weren't other ways to stay informed. Though the truth is (and he knows it), I don't read about the news, either. I don't stay up to date. I'm not a responsible citizen.

I'm not completely out of the loop, I should point out. I try to put the radio on to informative channels when in the car, and I do scan the headlines when I can. I pick up articles from friends in social media on topics dear to my heart - environmental issues, social justice investigations, etc. It's not that society and the world doesn't concern me, and on a very deep level for that matter. It's two other central things that keep me from dedicating an hour a day to "informational media": a) there's always a slant, and b) there are only so many hours in a day.

We all have responsibilities. To our families, to our friends, to our ourselves, and to the world. In a day, my duties include everything from preparing my dogs breakfast to updating my blog, weeding my garden to knocking out a workout. The to-do list is endless, and prioritizing comes down to the most minute details in any given day.

So an hour to listen to who murdered who and when and where and why, day after day, seems, in all honesty, daunting.

Is that awful? Maybe to some. Some of us are very involved, politically active, emotionally charged about the welfare of the world and our role in it. And that's important. Essential. And I commend those that do their duty as informed citizens to stay on top of as much of it as possible.

I should note, I also have a stack of about 13 novels and 25 non-fiction books piled beside my bed, screaming my name each night. And endless unopened emails. And magazines and newspapers that will absolutely end up in recycling before they reach the light of day.

There's just too much. Too much to learn. Too much to listen to. And not all of it is worth it. Not all of it is relevant. Or, another way to look at it is, all of it can be relevant, if you make an argument for it, but in the end you have to choose.

So what should we do with those handful of moments in a day open for investigating information? Dancing with the Stars? Window shopping on Ebay?

Do whatever you want with them. If learning about new advances in the world of robotic engineering gets you off, read on. Watch some people duke it out on Maury. Skim a copy of Time, or Vogue or Horny Housewives. Do what relaxes you, inspires you, educates you. Just remember that in those moments you are anchoring yourself in a certain angle of reality. You are nourishing your brain with data (yes, nourish might be the wrong word in some cases), carving out your own unique take on the world around you. So if it matters to you how you see things, be selective. If you want a well-rounded view of politics, don't spend every afternoon on Fox TV. If you want an effective understanding of how to talk to your teenager, try learning what a tweet is before rewatching American Graffiti.

We live in an age of information, and it is literally infinite and all around us. It's a balance, as is everything. Don't get too hard on yourself if you just can't get to it all. But when you do get a chance to learn, to investigate, try to make it worth it. For you. You don't have to know how many bodies wash up on the shore in Jersey each month, but a general idea of the state of the world might not be a bad idea. At least, the state of your world, anyway.

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