Blackout. It's a curious word, one with rich layers of meaning. The Merriam-Webster people at www.m-w.com do an excellent job, thank you.
As noted by Merriam-Webster (and surely all dictionaries are not the same, as you know; for example, at work I have the estimable American Heritage Dictionary, but I need an update: new words; new meanings), the noun speaks of several senses, or meanings:
Turning off stage lights. A skit that ends with lights out. A lights-out precaution against air raids. Loss of consciousness or memory, such as experienced by a drunk. Loss of electrical power. Loss of radio transmission. Prohibition of TV viewing of a sold-out sporting event. Restrictions on special rates of plane tickets. Stuff like that.
It's time for me to have a blackout. I need (or is it merely want?) to black out.
Let me explain.
Since 1994, whenever we went on vacation to the Adirondacks, I've imposed a news blackout on myself (well, it did sort of tyranically spread to those around me). No newspapers. No television. No radio. No Internet. (Actually, this reminds me of Good Friday in our household growing up, with the addition of no music. And, no, we weren't Southern Baptists. Roman Catholics. But as usual I digress.) This self-imposed blackout was particularly targeted toward current news. The first year I took "old" newspapers up to camp, as we call it, and did a lot of catching up. It was also right at the beginning of the baseball strike that year. So I sort of left myself hanging as to whether there was even a baseball season.
When I'm in blackout mode, I avert my eyes from newspapers when we go into town or clap my hands on my ears if I hear a newscast. Or try to.
Yes, some people, if not most, do this, pretty much, all the time. And I guess such unknowing really is a bliss of a kind.
Why do I do such a thing? you might sanely wonder. A couple reasons. Since I'm an inveterate news junkie who once served as a copyeditor at a newspaper (should that be copy editor?), this blackout serves as more or less a drying out of my news-sodden mind. I mean, I don't live in an area with 24-hour newsradio -- not anymore -- but back home WCBS-880 or WINS 1010 or, now Bloomberg on 1130 were all regular staples. (Critique: the whole lot of 'em, and more so now on TV, have no depth, just the same crap repeated in a mindless loop with the same footage or drama endlessly repeated. A herd mentality, neither liberal or conservative, just lazy, xenophobic, and superficial. Why no depth? I mean, they have the time! Must be something about the American psyche's attention span, but is it cause or effect?)
Another reason for doing such a thing is what I'll call the Wordsworth Effect: "The World Is Too Much With Us." To paraphrase, I am out of tune. It's too much. I need to get away from it all. Back to nature. Stare at the lake and its sunset. That sort of thing.
It's so refreshing.
I have made allowances or exceptions over the years to my news blackouts. One year, on the beach, a young lady said to me, "I don't suppose you want to break your blackout to hear that Jerry Garcia died, do you?"
Well, we haven't vacationed yet this year, and we won't go up North because we're going to Ireland in October.
I crave the blackout. I'm hungry for it.
As trivial as it seems, baseball plays a large part in this. My freakin Giants blew a game to the lowly Nationals tonight. Now that's something you simply do not want to know. And when the Missus saw me grumbling at this computer screen, she suggested the Blackout. It's overdue. (Two years ago, I listened for distant radio stations while en route to camp in an effort to catch news on what happened at the trading deadline. After all, we weren't at camp YET.) I just dream of coming back from camp one time after a week to discover my Giants got hot while the Enemies did lousy. (Lousily?)
And then there's Iraq.
And all the rest.
Why can't I put my head in the sand?
Why can't I be a sleepwalker?
What a metaphor.
There's a lot to help us shout, out there.
Or maybe it's mindful meditation that's needed most.