The anxious presence

A few days ago I experimented with my Facebook and Twitter feeds. This was about when the crisis in Baltimore was getting hot, and I could already see the signs. Unitarian Universalists — I’m thinking of ministers particularly, because that’s who I know mostly, but I see lay persons do this, too — would bring a particular intensity to, well, I can’t rightly call it a discussion.

It’s more like a frantic, often doctrinaire, echo chamber.

So I started muting people, leaving ministers who are close personal friends, old college mates, former co-workers and the like. Rather than falling into an insulated world of cat videos, the quality of discourse about Baltimore’s situation improved. Deep analysis and more varied voices, particularly from people who live or have lived there. (I do live an hour away by train, so this is also a regional story.)

What vanished was the anxiousness, the agita and the dubious logic of borrowed framing.

There’s a bad lesson in that. And I’m not sure I’m going to unmute the anxious presence. More importantly, who would seek it out?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. I’ve come to see within myself that I have past of seeking out the anxious presence, even though it is destructive to both my inner life, and my capacity to work constructively. Why did I seek out the anxiety? Because it prompts a kind of energy within me – an energy which like a sugar high puts me into jitters, and then leaves me to crash.

    So I know turn away from a number of news sources that deliver their product in a vehicle called anxiety; and I turn away from the ministry colleagues who also indulge their sweet truth in such things.

    Once you see the phenomenon (especially when you’ve seen yourself in the phenomenon), it is hard to un-see it.

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