There’s that particular type of loud-mouthed, pseudo-populist “news” or commentary or whatever you want to call it, that has always rubbed me the wrong way. While my mother can on occasion listen to Rush Limbaugh (just to get her anger back), I can’t deal with it, nor can I read most of the opinion or headlines in the Boston Herald or the New York Post. Indignance, outrage, bloviating…they hold no attraction for me.
On the drive home a few days ago I heard a commercial for a local talk-radio host who has made his name in this sort of punditry. I groaned a little, but also tuned my ears a bit, hoping that finally I could figure out why people like these obnoxious talking heads.
He only spoke a few sentences and didn’t say anything offensive, but he had that tone of voice. The tone communicates: I’m going to say whatever I want. I’m not scared of anything. I don’t care who I piss off. I’m opinionated and you’re going to hear about it. And I thought: Maybe that’s what the attraction is – people want to be like that.
Let me tell you, you don’t want to be like that.
My whole life has been about disciplining my tongue and my spirit. My natural inclination is to say whatever I want, loudly. To broadcast my opinion at the top of my voice and not care about being nice. To not care if people like me. To not care who I piss off.
So maybe that’s why I can’t stand the shouting heads: because they make fortunes doing exactly what I have spent my life trying not to do. Maybe I backed the wrong horse. Sometimes I imagine what it would have been like to choose a path on which my worst qualities would have been rewarded. I wouldn’t have had to spend long penitential periods getting my spiritual house in order . I wouldn’t have had to train myself to listen to – and understand – both sides of an argument. I could have resisted the call of charity, gotten meaner and mouthier, and never had to work so hard. When I am weak, I wish I had chosen that path. I wish I didn’t have to love my neighbor.
This is where I should write how joyful my labors are because they lead me to God and into love. But I’m tired from labors of goodness and don’t have it in me to rhapsodize about their merits. Sometimes labor is just that. Sometimes what makes me holy doesn’t make life easier. Sometimes duty is all that saves us.