For more years than I care to mention, my early morning routine has varied and shifted with the demands of my work.

Sometimes I have cooked a hearty breakfast; sometimes I have thrown a slice of toast into my mouth as I leave the house.  On other mornings I have subjected myself to the delights of a railway station café, but the one staple that has always fitted into it is to catch up with the news of the day.

That has, most often, taken the form of reading from the BBC website or listening to the Radio 4 Today programme.

At the moment I have about a 40-minute drive to the office. I get up and cook myself a breakfast consisting of a potato cake, baked beans and an omelette, pour a glass of fresh orange juice and open my iPhone at the BBC news app to see what the world has been doing while I looked away overnight.

On the way to work I listen to the dulcet tones of John Humphries, Mishal Husain, James Naughty or whoever may be in the big chair, poised to drag some politician over the coals.

It has been a routine that has served me, on and off, for around 30 years.

This morning was different. Something in me changed, and I’m not sure why.

The world is sleepwalking its way to our doom, and as long as I keep reading about it, watching it and listening to it, I am going to carry on feeling helpless and unable to make a difference.

I had a bad night’s sleep last night and woke just before midnight, then at 02:20 and again at 04:18 and then when I woke for a fourth time at 05:35 I decided to get up. I cooked my breakfast, as usual, sat down and opened the BBC News app and instead of getting back in touch with the world and keeping myself apprised of the state of nations, as I scrolled down the list of news items I found myself becoming more and more annoyed.

I wasn’t tired, in fact, I was quite awake, and so it wasn’t down to my usual ‘just woke up’ grouchiness. It was as though I had had a filter removed from my glasses and instead of seeing individual news items, as I flicked from page to page, I began to see an amalgamated global picture of what a terrible world in which we live.

We are poisoning the very planet we depend on for life. Celebrities and politicians have been using their power and influence to abuse young men and women for decades. Governments are failing the people that elected them in the most dreadful and deceitful ways. Families are fleeing from war and persecution and are being treated as scroungers and terrorists and turned away at the border. World leaders are getting into pissing contests and bringing us to the brink of another cold war. Generations who fought in wars to keep us free, in need of a little love and care, are starving and freezing in winter. Humans are using their fellow man as slaves., people with severe mental illness are not getting the care they need. People are being murdered in our streets because a small group of fanatics a thousand miles away say they should. The people we should look up to, like our sports heroes, our great entertainers and our leaders, have been stretching the law to its limits to avoid paying their fair share of tax, while the people who made them rich and powerful are losing their jobs and their homes and struggling to feed their families. Faceless corporations are destroying vast swathes of rainforest to grow cows to make burgers to feed the already obese or produce palm oil for cosmetics so that young girls can paint themselves to look like their favourite vapid TV celebrity.

The more I look, the more I feel like I am looking at the third panel of Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ or a digital version of Dante’s Inferno.

Sure, if you look hard enough, you will find some useful news stories, but the good news / bad news ratio is a pretty damn poor one as it gets told to us.

It was just as I was tucking into my omelette that it dawned on me. I wasn’t reading the news; I was merely reading scandal. Except for a handful of the stories, almost none of the things I was learning will ever have any bearing on my life, and if I’m honest, totally honest, I don’t care at all about most of them. It was all just sensationalised to grab the short attention span of the online life we lead.

I have unwittingly spent thirty years reminding myself every morning of how awful the world can be, how the powerful can make the powerless suffer for greed, how little real control I have over my own life, and how there is almost nothing I can do to change it.

Imagine taking a small child and telling them every day that the world doesn’t love them, life will crush them, they will see horrors beyond imagining and that they will be powerless to stop them. Imagine what that would do to them in the long term. Imagine what their outlook on life would be at twenty-five, imagine what fifty years of that could do.

So what’s the difference between telling that to a child and subliminally subjecting myself to the same thing, every day, for the past thirty years? None, from what I can see. Is it any wonder that so many people are miserable, angry, isolationist, even depressed, when the story we see every day in the papers, on the television, on the radio, on social media, is one of a helpless global population held to ransom by a privileged few? Is it any surprise that we are raising a generation of detached and disaffected children who think that clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook post makes some difference in the world? What the hell else do they feel they can they do when we are being sold this story of doom and gloom every day? How are they supposed to know what is true and what isn’t when we have a US president how governs by lies while berating the ‘fake news’?

The world is sleepwalking its way to our doom, and as long as I keep reading about it, watching it and listening to it, I am going to carry on feeling helpless and unable to make a difference.

I watched a film a month ago, or thereabouts, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. It was a remake of an old black and white one starring Danny Kaye (which was itself an adaptation of the book by James Thurber).

I’m not sure it was supposed to be a particularly deep and meaningful movie, but it had quite a profound impact on me.  When my Grandad was still with us, he would say to me “you’re like Walter Mitty, you are”, when I would daydream as a child.

The film tells the story of a man who feels trapped in his mundane life by his inability to relate to others and has frequent daydreams about what his life would be like if he dared to be exciting and interesting. In the remake, Walter, brilliantly played by Ben Stiller, is forced to confront real life and in doing so opens up parts of himself that he never knew existed. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but if you haven’t, do!

So this morning I went to the iTunes store and downloaded the soundtrack for that movie. Instead of turning on Radio 4, I plugged my iPhone into the car, turned the volume up to eleven and drove to work listening to some fantastic and rousing music that reminded me of the motto from Life magazine as portrayed in the movie,

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and feel – that is the purpose of life.”

Has it made a difference? I think maybe a little bit. It’s reminded me that the world is a vast place full of amazing people and I need to go out and see it, instead of viewing it through the skewed perspective of the news media. I have always told myself that it is essential to be aware of what is going on in the outside world, but I have given that a go for thirty years and I think it might be time to try something else.

I have deleted the BBC News app from my phone, and I’m going to stop reading the ‘News’ (I use inverted commas to indicate that I no longer believe that News is relevant to anyone but those few involved in each particular story). I’m going to listen to rousing music on the way to work and see if I arrive looking forward to the day instead of waiting for it to end. I’m going to look at the things I can change in some small way that can make other people’s day just a little bit better. I’m going to see every encounter as an opportunity for adventure. I am going to begin to see the world for what I find it to be, not what I am told that it is.

Terry Davis

Stone Circle

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