Combating World Weariness

Our young blogger Charlotte writes about staying sane in the modern world.

Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother watching the news anymore. “What’s the point?”, I ask myself every time I scan the headlines on the BBC News website or switch on the television to find rolling news coverage of the war in the Middle East. Murder, politicians who cannot relate to ordinary people, people who have had their lives ruined by technology... everything seems to be in a permanent state of rubbishness at the moment, and the rise of technology has meant that we are constantly given minute-by-minute updates about what is happening around the world whether we like it or not. The fact that we are unable to tear ourselves away from the constant stream of updates has become suffocating. Sometimes, we may not actually feel like learning about the most recent exchange between Donald Trump and North Korea, or the latest gaffe from a politician – or at least, not two minutes after they have happened.

It is very easy for a young person to feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness with the world as it is today. The leader of the most powerful country on Earth refuses to accept that climate change is a significant problem – despite incontrovertible scientific evidence – and while we wait for said leader to come to his senses, the toll climate change is having on the planet is causing serious problems; not just to the ecosystem, but also psychologically. And it seems like it’s our generation who are suffering the most. In 2007, 1,000 middle-schoolers in America were surveyed, and nearly 60% were more stressed about climate change than about “terrorism, car crashes or cancer.” Is this simply millennials behaving like privileged wet blankets who have lost all resilience, or should it be a reminder to the older generations that we, too, will have to deal with the mental and physical implications of a problem which should be – but often isn’t – bigger than politics?

It seems the only thing to do is distract ourselves. The other day I was out walking in the woods with my dad, and as we were chatting about the state of politics and life in general in the 21st century, he suddenly stopped, pointed to the hundreds of bluebells lining the path, and said to me: “I worry about these things too. But look. I’m standing here, in a wood full of bluebells, in the fresh air. Sometimes we all need reminding that there is a little beauty left in the world.”

My point is: sure, try and do what you can to save the planet and improve other people’s lives, but give yourself a break from time to time. As America’s middle-schoolers have shown, dwelling incessantly on the future is not healthy. Occasionally, think about what we have that is worth living for. We live in Scotland, one of the most progressive and beautiful countries in the world. Go for a walk without your mobile phone and just take in the scenery with no distractions. Go to the cinema – there’s nothing like a good film to take you out of yourself for a few hours. Read a book; a real one, I mean, not an electronic screen - immerse yourself in a life and world completely different from your own. Carl Sagan once said that “to read is to voyage through time” and he was absolutely right. In a digital world which is becoming increasingly about the here and now, younger people need to appreciate that the world actually existed before they were born. Learning about somebody else’s experiences and imagination is incredibly humbling, offers a perspective on today’s world, and is one of the best means of distraction from ordinary life there is.

The point of art is to entertain, to make people think, and to distract from reality. In a world which is fraught with fear of the un known, art may be the one thing which can save our sanity.