Years from now we may look back at this summer as The Great Retreat of 2018.
Bloomberg recently reported that lifestyle television networks such as TLC, HGTV and the Hallmark Channel, are gaining viewers as people turn away from the news of the day, with its anger, threats and cruelty, towards lighter fare.
I get that. The Texture app on my iPad enjoys almost daily use where I bypass Macleans and Newsweek and head straight for all the cooking magazines. Cooking Light and Ricardo are my balm. Stretched out in my Adirondack chair on my back deck, a pot of tea or cool lemonade beside me and ’73 easy no-cook summer meals and ideas’ to scroll through. My chosen retreat.
This past Friday night Mother Nature decided to start the Canada Day long weekend with a bang. Shortly after dinner, just as Michael, Alex and I were settling in for a quiet night, dark clouds rolled in from the north, chasing us from the deck with a fast and furious rain shower, complete with not-so-distant lightning and thunder. Here and gone in less than an hour, the dark clouds gave way to the golden brilliance of the setting sun, reflecting off the rainwater on the trees and asphalt of our newly paved street.
Michael grabbed his camera and out we went. A light mist of rain continued to fall and as we stood in the middle of the street we marvelled at what we were experiencing. The setting sun to the west of us, a faint rainbow above us to the east, the sound of thunder and the occasional forked lightning to the south and more dark clouds on the northern horizon.
Our daughter laughed, threw open her arms, lifted her head towards the sun and thunder and started to dance in the middle of the street, using the sound of her feet slapping the wet pavement to tap out a beat.
If only we could face our chaotic newsfeeds with a similar joie de vie.
Surrounded by outrage and anger, from the trivial (why can’t people learn to merge onto the highway, or, I had terrible service at this restaurant) to the serious (high-profile suicides, trade wars and children separated from their parents), its unsurprising so many of us feel a desperate need to pull back, to disengage and to turn it all off.
The privilege of being a passive observer to the drama happening around us.
What shall we call this? Do we seek an escape or a retreat? An escape suggests we’re not coming back. We’re riding off into the sunset, away from the thunder and towards a distant, unknown horizon. While that may be tempting – my backyard beckons – I cannot in good conscience walk away.
Retreat it is. A great retreat, in which we take the time to regroup, assess our capabilities and our culpabilities and return stronger than ever.
Power is shifting to the crowd, brought here by new technologies that have lowered barriers to communications, organization and the distribution of information. However, rather than bring us together it has driven us apart, sending each of us into the warm embrace of like-minded people who allow us to live in the self-soothing fallacy that our perspectives and opinions are always correct and shared by the majority of people.
It has allowed us to look with scorn, anger and dislike at people who see the world differently than we do – and to believe that we stand outside the chaos. Rational individual observers of the irate and irrational crowd.
That is the second and far more dangerous fallacy we all must overcome.
We do not stand outside the crowd; we are the crowd.
All of our words and actions, however trivial, contribute to the mood in our communities and influence its trajectory. Those new technologies didn’t just give us greater access to people and information; they gave us greater power too. We have all been quick to seize that power but slow to recognize the responsibility that goes with it.
So yes, let’s retreat this summer to the places, people and things that bring us joy. While we’re there let’s carve out some time to think about our personal power and influence and how we will use it to shape our world.
I hope enough of you want what I want: peace, security and a little joie de vie.