A brief note on the news. Like many in our torrid little bandbox of a country, I’ve been following the fall of former general/CIA director David Petraus with a combination of disbelief and fascination. (against my better angels, I know) But to me, perhaps the most fascinating footnote was this article by Chuck Klosterman, current NY Times “Ethicist” and author. (To be clear, by far the most relevant footnote to this story is: why the hell was the FBI tapping all these e-mail accounts without a warrant, and with only a hint of just cause? But I digress…) In June, Klosterman responded to a letter in his column that eerily resembles the Petraus case, but… well, read his. He’s a darn good writer.
I bring this up here not because of the story itself, but because of Klosterman’s smart commentary. He posts a set of answers to questions he’s been asked a lot this week, and to “How did you feel as this unfolded?”, he answers:
“I was fascinated. It was fascinating. I spent a lot of time refreshing my browser. But — of course — it was happening to me, so how else was I going to feel? It’s weird to be inside the news. Moreover, following any event on Twitter radically amplifies the illusion of its import. It makes you believe things matter far more than they do.”
I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to Twitter (or to espionage scandals), though I take his point for sure. It’s easy, in our own heads, to think things matter more than they do. And most of us don’t even have the excuse of a matter that could affect national security- it’s an offhand comment, negative feedback, a bad date, whatever. And then we build that story in our brains to something tragically epic. When in reality, these things don’t matter.
I take this as another reminder- tone down the drama. Live your life, as independent of the chattering class as you can, be the chattering class the gossipers at the office or the editorial page of the Washington Post. Breathe and meditate. There you’ll find the big picture.