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Balancing Serious Matters vs. Enjoying Life

By Jeff Dutton
On May 3, 2011

For those of you who have read my previous articles published in this section, you may be aware that I tend to worry myself with serious matters of a political and/or societal nature. If you have not read any of these previous articles, well, now you know what my focus has historically been in this section. These articles were merely an extension of what I have personally concerned myself with on a constant, unrelenting basis: budget deficits, defense spending, international relations, the environment, political parties, I don't have the column space to continue here. These topics are by no means a light subject matter and, given the times in which we live, there is no shortage of very concerning issues. That being said, constantly concerning one's self with such matters can be tiring. I find myself at times in a state of anxiety or, at its worst, depression over the state of human affairs. Being the parent of a small child whose future I am greatly concerned with, adds to these feelings immensely.

Recently, thanks to an invigorating trip outside of the country, I have found myself on a mental vacation from all serious societal and political matters. I have regulated myself to reading only the sports, arts and life and automotive sections of the Chicago newspaper I subscribe to. I have not watched a single second of cable or broadcast news that has not been sports related in over a month, and let me tell you, it has been a great vacation. I have focused on only things I enjoy in life, both in the news and in the world around me. I find myself more relaxed, less anxious and not the least bit sad or stressed over any issue outside of my immediate control. I must reiterate it has been GREAT! Yet, I cannot help but feel that such an approach to life, one which ignores serious matters in the society of which I am a part of, is irresponsible. In order to be a good, contributing member of society, as well as responsible parent concerned about the world that I leave my child, I know I must be informed, thoughtful and, if necessary, concerned about the state of societal and political affairs. This leads me to the question that I have for myself, and for those of you reading this: What is the proper balance between concerning one's self with all of the serious issues that need to be addressed in society, and sitting back and enjoying the beautiful, fun, lighter side of life around you?

I intend to end my mental vacation very soon, and this question lingers in my head as I prepare to do so. Prior to my enjoyable mental break, I would say that I was definitely extreme in my contemplation of serious societal issues. I would be sitting watching T.V. with my wife, and began to zone out into thoughts of what needs to be done to responsibly bring down the federal deficit, or what policy options could best bring about sustainability with the least amount of shock to the economy. Eventually, my wife stopped asking me what I was thinking about when I was sitting on the couch with a blank stare, for she is not prone to stressing as much as I am over these issues. I even found myself losing hours of sleep to the anxiety associated with contemplating matters that are so often troubling. Now, I find myself at the other end of the spectrum, not caring about anything of an overly serious societal or political nature. There has to be a middle ground between these extremes.

While ignorance has proven to be bliss for me, I am itching to know what is going on in Washington, how things are shaping up in Japan, what is currently happening with the uprisings in the Muslim world, the list goes on. However, I do not have an answer to my question of proper balance and I have a feeling I am years away from one. I think I am going to take an approach of easing myself back into the news. Then restrict my thoughts on such matters to certain, appropriate times, as opposed to constantly contemplating them. There has to be a proper balance, and this writer is determined to find it, even if it takes me a lifetime.


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